Note: 988 will launch in July 2022 – in the meantime, please continue to refer to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-8255.
A Simple Way to Get Help
America is deep in a behavioral health crisis. Over 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2018, and another 150,000 died from drug overdose and alcohol-related deaths – often closely tied to mental health crisis.
To address this issue, the FCC has approved a proposal in July 2020 that designates 988 as a mental health crisis hotline number – just like 911 is an emergency number.
988 will launch in July 2022 – in the meantime, please continue to refer to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-8255.
Once activated, 988 will feed into the NSPL network of call centers, including Lines for Life.
Why Do We Need The 988 Suicide Lifeline?
Thousands of families, communities, and workplaces throughout the United States lose loved ones to suicide each year.
We know that time is key to suicide prevention – studies show that most suicide attempts are made within three hours or less of someone having suicidal thoughts, and some in as little as 5 minutes. With a memorable three-digit number, access to crisis counselors will be just seconds away.
We believe the introduction of 988 will be a breakthrough in suicide prevention and a powerful public statement that reduces stigma: struggling with mental health is a fact of life, and it’s okay to need urgent help. People will be able to reach out quickly and easily, which will in turn save lives.
This crisis is wreaking havoc on families, communities and workplaces throughout the United States.
It’s time to meet this challenge with the evidence-based crisis intervention that the 988-crisis line will provide – connecting people who are struggling with resources to get them help now, providing critical help to callers and relief to their families, neighbors and co-workers.
Why a 3-digit number?
988 will be a three-digit dialing code to reach help fast when you’re in mental health crisis – think 911 for the brain. When you’ve got a police, fire, or rescue emergency, you call 911. When you have a mental health emergency, you’ll call 988. It will connect you with a highly trained crisis intervention specialist who can help you get through the crisis and connect with additional resources.
The 988 network will make it much easier to reach help, and will:
- Deliver timely and effective crisis intervention services to millions of Americans
- Reduce health care spending with more cost-effective early intervention
- Meet the dramatically growing need for crisis intervention
- Help eliminate the stigma of mental health by normalizing help seeking for mental illness with the same priority we deliver for services like fire and rescue emergencies
We know that when people hear about an easy way to connect for mental health help, they reach out – calls to crisis lines skyrocket after celebrity suicide deaths. 988 will open the door for millions of Americans to seek help.
How Will 988 Work?
988 will connect people in crisis to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the nation’s safety net for people in crisis. The Lifeline is a network of over 160 call centers throughout the United States that currently help over 2.2 million people in crisis every year. The Lifeline:
- Sets clinical standards to ensure high quality, effective help for people in crisis
- Provides constant quality assurance and training to improve call center performance
- Deploys and sustains the state-of-the-art telecommunications software and hardware to ensure responsiveness
- Constantly evaluates performance to identify areas of opportunity and risk
Is 988 live now?
- Not yet! Please continue to refer to the NSPL at 1-800-273-8255.
- The FCC and Congress have set July 2022 as a launch date for 988 – in the meantime, community partners, news organizations, and others must take care with how this information is communicated, because calling 988 does not currently connect to mental health crisis professionals.
How many people call the Lifeline?
- In 2019, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline answered over 2.2 million calls, texts, and chats from people in crisis.
- With 988, the Lifeline expects to reach millions more each year.
Will 988 cost additional tax dollars?
- While no funding information has yet been solidified, we do know that first responder / 911 response and emergency room visits are the most expensive ways to treat crisis. A typical 911 call results in thousands of dollars in cost to taxpayers – the dispatcher and system, the first responder personnel, and often resulting hospitalization are all costly, both to taxpayers and individuals who are struggling.
- Call centers in the Lifeline network already divert hundreds of thousands of calls from 911 every year, and our interventions are a much less expensive alternative – many call centers de-escalate as many as 95% of their suicidal callers, meaning that only a few require the costly intervention of emergency services.
What is HR 4194, National Suicide Hotline Designation Act?
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was a bi-partisan bill designed to make the 988 crisis line a reality – signed by the president in October 2020. The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission to designate 988 as a national number to reach our suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system.
How Does 988 Cut Health Care Costs?
First responder / 911 response and emergency room visits are the most expensive ways to treat crisis. A typical 911 call results in thousands of dollars in cost to taxpayers – the dispatcher and system, the first responder personnel, and often resulting hospitalization typically run in the thousands of dollars.
Call centers in the Lifeline already divert hundreds of thousands of calls from 911 every year – many call centers de-escalate as many as 95% of their suicidal callers, meaning that only a few require the costly intervention of emergency services.
And Lifeline calls cost a fraction of a 911 call – in 2018, the average Lifeline call cost just $25, as compared to the thousands of dollars in cost to respond to a crisis with 911 and first responders.
When 988 is fully implemented, Lifeline call centers will divert literally millions of calls from 911 – saving hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
The Bottom Line
988 will change the way Americans think about mental health, and change the conversation for the better.