Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare
After two years of planning and preparation, the new three-digit suicide prevention line, 988, will go live on Saturday, July 16.
In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the lead federal agency, in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Veterans Affairs and Vibrant Health.
The new 988 dialing code provides 24/7, free, and confidential support for anyone having mental health-related distress, like thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. It’s available nationwide for call (multiple languages), text, or chat (English only) starting on July 16, 2022 and works through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the lead federal agency for the lifeline, in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Veterans Affairs. For more information about 988 or the 988 Partner Toolkit, visit SAMHSA.gov/find-help/988.
The Lifeline, 988, is more than just an easy-to-remember number—it is a direct connection to trained, compassionate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress or thoughts of suicide. 988 will provide easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire, and police as needed). Callers to 911 talk with a person who answers the phone. With 988, the caller experience will be different. Lifeline centers utilize the Vibrant Emotional Health Lifeline technology, which means callers to 988 will hear some automated prompts before hearing a counselor’s voice.
Moving to 988 does not mean the 1-800-273-8255 number goes away. After July 16, 2022, using either number will get people to the same services.
In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes. Suicide is a leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 years.
Please share this new suicide prevention number (and these warning signs) – 988 – with your staff, families, friends. If you’re suffering from any of these warning signs, use the 988 yourself. Reach out for help. There are people waiting for the call and to offer all callers a lifeline.