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988 suicide prevention hotline launches nationwide

The hotline provides 24/7 free and confidential emotional support around the country to those in mental health distress.

People experiencing a mental health crisis can now call or text a three-digit number, 988, to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and connect with mental health professionals trained to respond to such emergencies.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline went live on Saturday morning, according to SAMHSA Assistant Secretary Miriam Delphin-Rittmon.

The hotline was designed to provide 24/7 free and confidential emotional support around the country to those in mental health distress, the 988 lifeline website explains. 

The new number connects the caller to a certified crisis center in the area where the call is placed, according to the website. The hotline is made up of a network of 200 local crisis centers around the country.

“When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network,” the website says. “These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.”

The three-digit number is expected to be easier to remember in times of crisis than the 10-digit 800 number currently handled by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is also meant to streamline mental health responses so people can get the urgent help they need much faster than by calling 911, which generally connects callers to law enforcement agencies rather than mental health professionals.

Its launch comes about two years after the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act passed in 2020 to designate 988 as the universal number for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's 10-digit number, 800-273-8255, will continue to remain operational after the launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Additional resources will remain available by texting HOME to 741741 or visiting SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.