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The New 988 Crisis & Suicide Line

Trisha Jarnagin, MS, MAed, LMFT

Mental health support is critical to our overall well being, both as individuals and as a community. With a death from suicide occurring nearly every 11 minutes in the United States - there are obviously some missing components to providing appropriate and adequate help to those in need.

There is now a suicide and crisis lifeline with a simple 3 digit phone number: 988. The lifeline history began in 2001 when Congress set aside money specifically for a suicide prevention hotline. In 2005 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was launched and received 46,000 calls within the first year. That high volume of calls reinforced the need for such a system to exist. Not only does it need to exist - but needed to better serve specific populations. To answer that need, a Spanish subnetwork was added in 2006 and the VA came in to better server our veterans in 2007.

The lifeline continued to help connect those in need with those who can help, but with growing technology a chat feature and google connected search chat link were developed. By 2020 the lifeline volume had grown to 3.3 million calls, chats and texts. It was in this year the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 became law. July 16th of 2020 the final order designating 988 as the Veterans Crisis Line number and new Lifeline came - this required all US telecommunication providers to activate 98 for all subscribers by July 16, 2022.

This Lifeline connects those in need to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. When someone is experiencing mental health related distress, calling 988 gives someone access to care and support with qualified professionals.

If someone is having suicidal thoughts, experiencing substance use crisis or concerned about a loved one - they can call or text 988 to immediately begin receiving help. Utilizing Lifeline can lead to feeling less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful.

There are times in life when we are all in need of help. If you find that you are in need of mental health support please reach out. If it is an emergent situation, utilize 988 as soon as you recognize the need. If it is not emergent, find support in your community through trained mental health professionals. We are here, and we care.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2022). 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988

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