988 is the nation’s new Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

988 - Holding phone

The future of crisis response

By Samantha Shepherd, MSW, LICSW • JFCS Therapist

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2020, someone in this country died of suicide every 11 minutes. In addition to this, over 12 million adults seriously considered suicide, with over 3 million planning an attempt, and over 1 million attempting suicide. As a response, congress designated that a new three digit dialing code, 988, be created to expand support for folks experiencing any mental health crisis. On July 16, 2022, this number was launched and received 96,000 calls in its first week alone, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

This new number is an easy-to-remember way for people to get support during a mental health crisis. It will allow folks to be connected 24/7 no matter where they live. The line provides live calling services 24/7 in English and Spanish, and translation services in over 250 additional languages through Language Line Solutions. Its text/chat service is currently only available in English.

SAMHSA Acting Director, Dr. John Palmieri, acknowledged that there historically has been a lack of resources and responsiveness to suicide and mental health calls. SAMHSA sees 988 as a positive step forward in creating this change. In the short-term, that means strengthening and expanding lifeline infrastructure to respond to individuals by calls, texts, and chats. Long-term, the goal is for it to be a robust system that provides the crisis care needed anywhere in the country.

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