988: Help is three digits away

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or desire to end your life, you don’t have to face it alone. Help is available by calling or texting 988.

988 offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress. That could be:

  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Mental health or substance use crisis, or
  • Any other kind of emotional distress.
  • People can call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org for themselves or if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.988 serves as a universal entry point so that no matter where you live in the United States, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help.

Rhitu Chatterjee, a health correspondent with NPR, explains the new three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is designed to be a memorable and quick number that connects people who are suicidal or in any other mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional. Currently, the majority of people experiencing a mental health emergency end up dialing 911.

“If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, 988 will be there. 988 won’t be a busy signal, and 988 won’t put you on hold. You will get help.”

Xavier Becerra, secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services

The problem is that 911 wasn’t set up to address mental health needs. Either callers end up in a frenetic emergency room, waiting for hours and sometimes days to get care, or they end up interacting with law enforcement, which can lead to tragedy or trauma.Mental health advocates hope that 988 will become a widely known, safer and more effective alternative.

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