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988 – New Mental Health Crisis Hotline Key Facts by Madison Shirley

9-8-8, three digits that can be memorized with ease and quickly dialed. The new hotline has launched and it aims to strengthen the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. When someone is experiencing a mental health emergency dialing a long number and waiting to be connected is not at all ideal. These three digits are a stepping stone towards transforming the mental health care system. 

The direct line will connect callers with a trained counselor or health professional in their local area. The 9 digit Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, remains active but calls will be routed to 988. Some key facts about the hotline include:

  • Calls are accepted for anyone who needs support for suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crises.
  • Veterans can press “1” to reach the Veterans’ Crisis Line.
  • Pressing “2” directs callers to reach Spanish-speaking crisis counselors. 
  • Pressing “2” also provides interpretation options in over 150 languages.
  • For deaf or hard of hearing individuals that utilize teletype, it is recommended to use their preferred relay service or dial 711 than 988.
  • Text or chat support is available in English only at this point in time. Texting 988 will connect individuals. The chat feature is available through Lifeline’s website at 988lifeline.org/chat.
  • Support is free and confidential which is imperative. Help is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

The unfortunate reality is that the Mental Health Crisis persists. According to SAMHSA: “Too many people are experiencing suicide and mental health crises without the support they need. In 2020 alone, the US had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes – and for people aged 10-34 years old, suicide is the leading cause of death.” The urgency for stronger and more attainable help is exemplified by the stark reality of stats not only in the United States but worldwide. 

988 provides hope amidst a very urgent need. Another benefit is quality control and the ability to design specialized routing networks for self-identifying communities such as veterans, Spanish speaking individuals, or LGBTQ+ youth just to name a few. Any light we can shed on the importance of equally accessible life-saving tools is essential. May we never lose sight of those who are doing their very best to navigate their own mental health journey. Thank you to the trained professionals who are working to guide and help those in need.