July 26, 2022
U.S. transitions to 988 suicide and crisis lifeline
MOBILE, Ala. — The United States has now transitioned the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to 988 – an easy-to-remember three-digit number for 24/7 crisis care. The lifeline, which also links to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need.
This initiative is part of President Biden’s comprehensive strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis. It is identified by Secretary Xavier Becerra as a top priority at HHS. Since January 2021, the Biden Administration has 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.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law after the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020, authorized 988 as a new three-digit number for suicide and mental health crisis. All telephone service and text providers in the United States and the five major U.S. territories are required by the FCC to activate 988 no later than July 16.
“988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans,” said Secretary Becerra, who has been meeting with states across the country about the transition to 988 as part of HHS’ National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health. “There is still much work to do. But what matters is that we’re launching, 988 will be live. We are looking to every governor and every state in the nation to do their part to make this a long-term success.”
In 2021, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts. That number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition.
The United States had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34. From April 2020 to 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. Studies have shown that after speaking with a trained crisis counselor, most Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful.
The 10-digit Lifeline number 800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to be operational 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 800-273-8255 and Press 1, or by chat exit disclaimer icon or text to 838255.