What is 988?
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) offers 24/7 call, text, and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance-related, and/or mental health crises, or any other emotional distress. You can also dial 988 if you’re worried about a loved one who may need support.
Once you are connected via phone, text, or chat, a crisis counselor listens to you, works to understand how your problem is affecting you, provides support, and shares resources that may be helpful. These services will also expand to increase local and state response.
Anxiety and Depression
Grief and Loss
Thoughts of Suicide
Listening and Support
When calling 988, callers will hear a greeting message while your call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center (based on the caller’s area code). A trained crisis counselor will then answer your call, listens, works to understand how the issue is affecting you, provides support, and shares resources if needed.
If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, you 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.
When you text 988, you are connected to a group of Lifeline crisis centers that can help.
A crisis counselor will listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful. Texting is currently only available in English. This service will expand to increase local and state response.
Chat is available through Lifeline's website. People seeking chat services are provided a pre-chat survey before connecting with a counselor, who identifies the main area of concern. If there’s a wait to chat with a crisis counselor, a wait time message will appear. If demand is high, you can access the Lifeline’s helpful resources while waiting.
Once you are connected, a crisis counselor listens to you, works to understand how your problem is affecting you, provides support, and shares resources that may be helpful. Chat is currently only available in English.
The Lifeline accepts calls, texts, and chats from anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crisis.
Currently, a small percentage of Lifeline calls require activation of the 911 system when there is imminent risk to someone's life that cannot be reduced during the Lifeline call. In these cases, the crisis counselor shares information with 911 that is crucial to saving the caller's life.
Yes, the Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls (multiple languages), chats, or texts (English only) from anyone who needs mental health-related or suicide crisis support and connects them with trained crisis counselors. The support and service received from the crisis counselors is provided at no charge to those who use the service; standard data rates from telecommunication mobile carriers may apply to those who text to the Lifeline. If monetary assistance is needed for communications needs, please visit the Lifeline website.
Yes. In fall 2022, the 988 Lifeline began a pilot program to offer specialized call, text, and chat support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and other sexual and gender minority (LGBTQI+) youth and young adults. The program aims to support people under the age of 25 who reach out to the 988 Lifeline and want the option of connecting with a counselor specifically focused on meeting the needs of LGBTQI+ youth and young adults. The specialized services are currently available by text and chat daily from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. EST and 24/7 by calling, until capacity is built up to offer all services 24/7.
Veterans, service members, and their families call 988 and press option 1. To learn more, please visit the Veterans Crisis Line website. This process is the same as it has been in the past for Veterans; however it's now simpler with the shortened 988 number.
The Lifeline currently provides live crisis center calling services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages. Text and chat are currently available in English only.
All Lifeline crisis centers adhere to the Lifeline's Imminent Risk Policy, which means that crisis center staff work through active engagement to provide support and assistance for people at risk in the least restrictive setting possible. In fact, most contacts with the Lifeline are resolved by the Lifeline itself, by chat or phone, in a manner that does not require additional immediate intervention.
Currently, calls to 988 are automatically routed to the closest 988 Lifeline crisis center based on the area code of the phone being used. Because people commonly keep their same mobile phone numbers even when they've moved to other cities (or perhaps they call 988 when they are traveling), this means that a caller can be routed to a crisis center that is not in their same area.
If the person wants to be connected to additional local services or requires emergency service, they may need to disclose their actual location to the 988 Lifeline crisis counselor. In some instances, when there is serious risk to life and a person poses an immediate danger to themselves or others, a crisis counselor is required to use 911 to help reach a caller even without their permission (this occurs in fewer than 1 percent of calls to the 988 Lifeline).
The Lifeline greeting states that calls may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes. Additionally, crisis centers in the Lifeline network may independently use call recordings for training purposes, depending on the best practices of the center.
It's also important to note that people contacting 988 are not required to provide any personal data to receive services. SAMHSA recognizes the importance and the expectation of privacy when a person contacts 988. The network system has several safeguards to address concerns about privacy.
People contacting 988 are not required to provide any personal data to receive services. SAMHSA recognizes the importance and the expectation of privacy when a person contacts 988. The network system has several safeguards to address concerns about privacy.
Any effort to obtain demographic information from those who use 988 will serve three primary purposes: 1) to save lives; 2) to connect people to ongoing support; and 3) to evaluate system needs and performance, particularly ensuring that gaps and inequities are being addressed.
The Lifeline currently serves TTY users either through their preferred relay service or by dialing 711 then 1-800-273-8255. Lifeline also offers services through chat and text. 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.
The Lifeline currently requires that all network centers adhere to specific standards regarding Suicide Risk Assessment and Imminent Risk interventions —however, each crisis center also develops their own specific training to meet organizational needs. The Lifeline Core Clinical Training, currently under development, will be a self-paced online training that will cover essential skills for crisis counselors who answer calls/chats/texts within the Lifeline network. Additional training is being developed to address the specific needs of populations at higher risk of suicide.
There are ongoing efforts to improve cultural competency training for Lifeline crisis counselors. In 2021, there were several activities addressing this, including updating pages on the Lifeline website and creating specific tools for crisis counselors, such as Spanish-language clinical guidance resources, Deaf and Hard of Hearing best practices for callers/chat visitors, an LGBTQ+ guidance document, an American Indian/Alaska Native tip sheet and more.
Dial 988, then press 1
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