988 crisis lifeline provides over-the-phone help nationwide

By Samantha White
May 17, 2023

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned to 988 — a much easier-to-remember phone number where people in crisis can receive care 24 hours day, seven days a week. The new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential help to anyone who needs it by calling or texting 988, or through a web chat feature on their website.

Calling, texting, and chatting will provide access to trained crisis counselors who can assist people experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance use, a mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also call on behalf of someone else who may need crisis support.

Both the 988 website and the DSHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website have more resources and information about the new lifeline, including messaging for physicians on telling patients about 988.  

The switch to 988 came after many years of work done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Communications Commission, and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law in 2020 and required all phone and texting providers across the country to activate 988 in July of 2022.