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988 Informational Guide

What is 988

In July 2022, a new, three-digit 988 number was implemented nationally for anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.

Trained counselors, who are not clinicians, are available to provide free, confidential emotional support to all callers. It can also be used by an individual who is worried about a loved one and not sure how to support that person or where to get them help.

Calls to 988 are routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now known as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline).  There is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that help thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. Centers are supported by local and state sources as well as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The previous Lifeline number 1-800-273- 8255 (1-800-273-TALK) will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.

Texting 988

988 can also be reached through online chat at their website. People seeking chat services will be provided a pre-chat survey before connecting with a counselor that identifies the main area of concern. Texting 988 is also an option. Both the chat and text will let you chat with a crisis counselor.

When chatting with the lifeline via the website you will first see a wait-time message while you are connected to a crisis counselor. If demand is high, you can view “Helpful Resources” section or call the Lifeline at 988. A counselor will answer your chat, listen to you, understand how your problem Is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful.

988 and 911

988 was established to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets our country’s growing suicide and mental health-related crisis care needs. 988 provides easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from the public safety purposes of 911 - where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed.

Increased collaboration between 988, 911, and the Emergency Services Program will give more options for those in crisis, such as those experiencing behavioral crisis, individuals in emotional distress or suicidal crisis. Trained counselors answering 988 will be able to communicate with 911 centers to coordinate emergency services needed to the location of the individual in crisis.  911 centers are already equipped trained professionals to handle these calls and triage them appropriately to determine scene safety and dispatch the appropriate public safety response or mobile crisis team. Only a small percentage of Lifeline calls require activation of the 911 system when there is imminent risk to someone’s life that cannot be reduced during the Lifeline call. In these cases, the crisis counselor shares information with 911 that is crucial to saving the caller’s life.


Those who are deaf or hard of hearing may use the online chat function or TTY users may use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255. Additional information: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline services for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Language translation services are also available to all callers, specifically the Spanish Language Line can be accessed by pressing 2 after dialing or dialing 1-888-628-9454. Additional information: Spanish Language services. 988 also offers Tele-Interpreters to provide translation services in over 240 additional languages. Text and online chat are currently available in English only.

Specialized Services and Resources

Service Members, Veterans, and their Families may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, as well as by chatting online at veteranscrisisline.net or texting 838255.

The 988 Lifeline began a program in Fall of 2022 to offer specialized support services for youth and young adults in the LGBTQIA+ community, for information visit the 988 website to learn more. As of January 2023, the specialized support can be accessed by people under the age of 25 via chat or text between the hours of 3 p.m. to 6 a.m. eastern time daily and 24/7 via call.   LGBTQ youth may also use the Trevor Lifeline by calling 1-866-488-7386 or texting 678-678 to access information and support for LGBTQ youth.

Does 988 trace the location of people who call, text, or chat?

a. When you reach out to 988, the Lifeline crisis counselor who responds to you will know your phone number if you call/text, or your IP address if you use chat. Beyond that, they will not know who you are or where you are located. And you are not required to provide any personal information to receive support from the 988 Lifeline.

b. If a 988 Lifeline crisis counselor makes an effort to gather information during a call, text or chat, it will be to:

  1. Save lives
  2. Connect people to ongoing support
  3. Evaluate 988 Lifeline services.

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