988: A New Resource for Quick and Responsive Mental Health Support

Active Minds
Active Minds

Sometimes all you need is to talk to someone, whether that be a friend, family member, or other loved one. Unfortunately, relying on these support systems is not always an option for everyone seeking help. 

Enter 988, a new, easy-to-remember resource that represents a major milestone in the mental health movement. Introduced by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988 is a dialing and chat number that immediately connects those experiencing a mental health crisis with help. 988 is for those times when you may feel that you have no one else, when you just need someone to listen, when you need to be heard, and everything in between. It can also be used to seek support for a loved one experiencing a crisis. Compassion and support await on the other end of the line by connecting those in need directly to a trained counselor. 

 Starting today, July 16, individuals all across the country will have access to mental health support with the push of these three digits 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

How to Use 988:

When Calling: 

  • Once the user dials 988, they will be routed to a local 988 call center.
  • If the call is not answered within 60 seconds, the user will be routed to a regional call center.
  • In the case that the call center is unavailable, the user will be routed to the national backup network.
  • Once connected with a counselor, users can then explain their situation, receive immediate support, and be connected to further resources if necessary.
  • Callers also have the option to be routed to a Spanish sub-network upon request.

When Texting: 

  • The chat option also allows individuals more comfortable with texting to be directly connected to a trained counselor through messaging.
  • To chat, the user can receive support by texting a simple message of their choosing, such as “I need help,” to 988.
  • Users will then be prompted to answer a series of brief questions to assess the situation, connect them to the appropriate counselor, and provide the right support. 

Note: The original National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) will remain in service after the launch of 988. 

988 represents a momentous stride forward for the mental health community, as mental health support and resources will begin to be just as easily available as resources for physical health. 

This equitable and accessible service will have the capacity to support all individuals impacted by mental health. Calls are answered by mental health professionals, designed specifically to assist those experiencing a mental health crisis, rather than the police. This will create an atmosphere that helps those calling feel comfortable, which plays a key role in working to destigmatize the process of asking for help. The inclusion of the texting alternative expands the options of accessibility offering individuals who may not feel as comfortable speaking on the phone a safe space to reach support. 

We’re excited to see how 988 will become part of a continuing effort to make mental health access available to all. To learn more about 988, check out https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988.