988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While some areas may currently be able to connect to the Lifeline by dialing 988, this dialing code will be available to everyone across the United States starting on July 16, 2022.
The 988 dialing code will be available nationwide for calls (multiple languages), texts or chat (currently only available in English).
Local and National Crisis Center Support
The Lifeline’s network includes over 200 crisis centers and has been in operation since 2005. When an individual calls 988, they are connected to trained counselors who are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. They first hear a greeting message while their call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center (based on the caller’s area code). A counselor then listens to the caller, understands how their problem is affecting them, provides support, and shares resources as needed. If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, the caller will be automatically routed to a national backup crisis center.
The Lifeline provides live crisis center phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages for people who call 988.
The First Step to Addressing a National Crisis
The 988 dialing code is just a first step toward strengthening and transforming crisis care across the country. It serves as a universal entry point so that no matter where someone lives, they can reach a crisis counselor who can help. 988 was established to improve access to crisis services to meets the nation’s growing suicide and mental health-related crisis care needs.
988 will provide easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from the public safety purposes of 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed).
The current Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, even after 988 is launched nationally. It currently serves TTY users either through their preferred relay service or by dialing 711 then 1-800-273-8255. Lifeline is in the process of expanding to video phone service to better serve deaf or hard of hearing individuals seeking help through the Lifeline/988.
Individuals can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
More information and answers to Frequently asked Questions about the use of 988 are available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.