988 Mental Health Crisis Line: What You Need to Know

988 lifeline

988 lifeline

There’s a reason that we created the 911 system for emergencies. It’s so that people in a crisis can easily dial for help without having to memorize some long number. But what about when you have a mental health crisis or you’re looking for a suicide prevention hotline number? In other words, for the times we you need crisis help but for various reasons don’t want to call 911. Until now, you’ve had to take the time to look that number up. Starting in July, however, that changes, with the launch of the new 988 mental health crisis line.

What is the 988 Lifeline?

The 988 number will now allow you to call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This is a mental health crisis line. You’ll reach the same help that you have when calling the old number. However, now you no longer have to remember or find that long number. Instead, just remember that instead of 911, for mental health emergencies, you might want to call 988.

What Is The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline started in 2005. As described on their website:

“The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.”

So, of course people can call this hotline when they are contemplating suicide and seeking support during this crisis. However, they’re not the only ones who call. If you or someone you love needs help for mental health distress, the hotline can assist you in finding the help that you need. If a therapist or other professional is unsure of the best way to assist a client experiencing suicidal thoughts, they can also get support from the Lifeline.

Many people are struggling with mental health issues, moments of crisis, suicidal impulses, and other issues of distress. Each deserves help. 988 connects you to a trained counselor who can help you during the immediate crisis while also finding you additional ongoing support in your local community.

NOTE: You can STILL call 911 in case of any emergency, including a mental health emergency, if you want to do so. If you’re seeking a crisis hotline, suicide hotline, or mental health assistance, you also have the alternative option of calling 988 to speak to a counselor.

988 mental health lifeline

How does 988 Change The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline?

In many ways, the new 988 mental health crisis number offers the same important services as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has offered for over 15 years. It will continue and strengthen what the Lifeline is already doing.

However, as Vibrant Emotional Health says, the creation of this new simple-to-remember-and-dial number presents “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change how crisis services are delivered.” It’s a great opportunity for every state to look at what they want to offer people who are in a mental health crisis.

In the long-term, the hope is for significant change in deploying widespread, well-trained, compassionate mental health crisis services to all who call.

They recognize and recommend the importance of:

  • Individuals being able to access the lifeline through whatever form of communication is easiest for them. Some people want to call. Others prefer to text. Some want to chat. All of those options are available with 988/
  • Individual and personal care for the people who call. This has always been a priority for the Lifeline and it will continue to be emphasized. You should get mental health crisis help that is unique to what you need in the moment although also informed by best practices.
  • Communication between and integration with 911 services. The people at 988 should be able to assist you in getting emergency services as needed.
  • Additional resources in your local community. They can provide you with immediate and ongoing resources. Vibrant recommends follow up to check on you as well.

Some communities offer excellent assistance through the lifeline. Some can use this transition to the 988 system to improve what they offer.

Why 988 Is Important

Hopefully, you would never hesitate to call 911 if you were in an emergency. For example, you might call if your house were on fire. Ideally, you would feel that same lack of stigma and ease of reaching help during a mental health crisis. You would call 988 and get the help that you need. That’s why we need this system.

Moreover, many people don’t want to or need to call 911 in a mental health crisis. And yet, they do need help. We can reduce spending on law enforcement by offering 988. We can reduce instances when people in a crisis are afraid to call 911 by offering 988 instead. 988 can connect you with 911 services if they are necessary.

We need 988 because people need and deserve help when they are struggling.

988 mental health lifeline number

When Does the 988 Mental Health Crisis Line Go Into Effect?

You can start calling or texting the 988 mental health crisis line as soon as it goes into effect nationwide on July 16, 2022.

Will All States Offer 988 Crisis Lifeline Calls?

This is a nationwide rollout. All states are required to begin offering the 988 crisis number. You might have read news that many states haven’t enacted legislation for the 988 mental health lifeline. That’s true. However, the number still starts working on July 16, 2022.

The states have to do their own legislation to figure out how they’ll pay for the service and other details. Some states, including California, have already made changes. Other states may not need to make major changes right away. The risk that some states run is overtaxing their crisis counselors if they don’t structure for increased hours. Ideally, more people will remember, become aware of, and utilize this crisis system to get the help that they need. Therefore, states need to make sure their infrastructure can handle that.

Regardless of when they work that out, the calls start working in all states on all devices on 7/16/22.

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