The switch to 988 hopes to provide more mental healthcare access to those in crisis. As of July 16th, all calls to the existing number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be forwarded to 988.

SCIOTO—Americans can now look to a new, easy to remember number to call in the event of a mental health crisis.

As of July 16, the nation transitioned from the ten-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to “988.” By dialing 988, Americans will access the same 24/7 crisis care previously offered by the national hotline.

The shift comes following a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need. According to a press release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this initiative is “part of President Biden’s comprehensive strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis.”

The release indicated that since January 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration made unprecedented investments to support the 988 transition, investing $432 million to scale crisis center capacity and ensure all Americans have access to help during mental health crises.

FCC staff first proposed to switch to 988 in a report to Congress in August of 2019 as the nationwide, easy to remember, 3-digit dialing code for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this important service by establishing the ability to also text 988.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States saw one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, with suicide being the leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline saw 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts in 2021, and that number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition based on SAMHSA’s projections.

Larry Mullins, Director of Scioto County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), saw the switch as an overwhelmingly positive move toward better access to mental health services.

“I would say that the new 988 suicide and mental health hotline is a wonderful addition,” Mullins said. “During the past 40 years, the lack of funding and the dismantling of our mental health services has led to many problems society faces today. A lot of people that could have benefited from mental health care have fallen through the cracks. I feel that this commitment to an easy to remember number is a great start to helping those facing crisis in their life.”

SAHMSA stated that the 10-digit Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to be operational after July 16 and will route calls to 988 indefinitely. Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or by chat or text to 838255.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, or if you are having suicidal thoughts or ideations, call or text 988 to be connected with a trained crisis counselor who can provide confidential help. In the event of a medical emergency, call 911.