The New 988 Lifeline
Suicide Prevention in the U.S.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2021), 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year and 1 in 6 youth, aged six to 17, experiences a mental health disorder every year. Since 1999, suicide rates in the U.S. have seen a 35% increase, causing suicide to be the 2nd leading cause of death among individuals aged 10-34. Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among the U.S population. In the face of these statistics, spreading awareness about mental health and suicide while increasing preventative measures to save lives is obligatory.
The new 988 Lifeline plays a crucial role in awareness and prevention. Several programs and services are currently in place to assist those struggling with their mental health—most notably, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline is a network of crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). The Lifeline works to improve crisis intervention services by empowering individuals, advancing best practices, and increasing public awareness about mental health.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) responded to the troubling rise in suicide rates across the U.S. by requiring all current phone service providers to establish the 988 number and begin routing calls made to 988 directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by the projected date of July 16, 2022. By moving the current Lifeline number, 800-273-8255 (TALK), to a three-digit national number like 911, the Lifeline will be more easily accessible to all in times of crisis.
As part of the switch to 988, many states will require including the area code when making a local call. Thirty-seven states include 988 in the first three numbers in a seven-digit phone number. To make a call locally, individuals will need to dial their area code first, followed by the seven-digit telephone number.
The Value of 988 for Our Mental Health System
Several positive changes are anticipated for our mental health system by transitioning to a three-digit national number (988). Implementing a specific, readily identifiable emergency number for individuals that need support and guidance will account for the following:
- More timely mental health assessments to take place
- Crisis intervention services to be delivered more efficiently
- Preventative measures to have higher rates of success against incidences of self-harm and suicide
- More appropriate follow-up care and secondary treatment planning to occur
During this transitional period, individuals should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or by use of Lifeline Chat. If you find yourself in an emergency and need assistance right away, do not hesitate to call 911.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or struggling with their mental health: there is hope. By reaching out to a support network, a mental health professional, and or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, you won’t have to feel alone as you navigate this time. Whether looking for a compassionate ally, someone to just listen, or to locate a treatment plan tailored to you, there is help available—and you deserve it.
Lifeline Chat. Lifeline. (n.d.). https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
NAMI. (2021). Mental Health By the Numbers. NAMI. https://www.nami.org/mhstats.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Lifeline. (n.d.). https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Suicide Prevention Hotline. Federal Communications Commission. (2021, May 3). https://www.fcc.gov/suicide-prevention-hotline.