Dialing or texting 988 connects directly to trained mental health professionals
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, help can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week simply by dialing or texting 988.
Within the United States, that number connects directly to trained mental health professionals at the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The program, which began July 16, is modeled after the 911 emergency system. It’s meant to be a memorable and quick number that connects people who are suicidal or in any other mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional.
The trained crisis counselors can help people experiencing mental health-related distress such as:
- thoughts of suicide
- mental health or substance use crisis
- any other kind of emotional distress
Veterans can use the number to reach the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 and then pressing 1. Spanish speaking counselors can be reached by pressing 2 after dialing 988.
UC Davis clinical neuropsychologist Angela Drake plans to encourage patients to use 988 in an emergency situation and as part of a broader self-care plan.
“There is a tremendous unmet need for mental health services in the United States, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that a significant number of people are experiencing mental health issues but lack access to treatment,” Drake said. “The new 988 system is a first step toward addressing some of those unmet needs and provides an important safety net for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Calling 988 serves as a universal entry point so that no matter where people live in the United States, they can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help.
The new 988 dialing code is operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The national network of more than 200 crisis centers helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. These centers are supported by local and state sources and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
SAMHSA describes 988 as a first step towards a transformed crisis care system in America. The program is in response to the urgent mental health realities in the U.S. In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes — and for people aged 10-34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death. In addition, there were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021.
The launch of 988 follows a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care in reach for people in need.