5 THINGS TO KNOW: What is 988 and how does does it work?

Apr. 24—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service gives information on the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline that is available to anyone 24 hours a day through phone, text and online chat. More information is available at 988lifeline.org.

1 What is 988?

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

2 Is the number only for suicide-related crises?

The Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls, chats or texts from anyone who needs support for suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crisis, and connects those in need with trained crisis counselors.

3 Can I text 988 for help?

When someone texts to 988, they are responded to by a group of Lifeline crisis centers that answer both chats and texts. This service will expand over the next few years to increase local and state level response. Once you are connected, a crisis counselor listens to you, works to understand how your problem is affecting you, provides support, and shares resources that may be helpful. Currently, texting is available in English only.

4 Will calling 988 lead to 911 being called?

Currently, 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.

5 Can anyone use the service?

Anyone in a U.S. state, territory, or tribe who needs suicide or mental health-related crisis support, or who has a loved one in crisis, can connect with a trained counselor by calling (multiple languages), chatting, or texting (English only) 988 (as long as the caller has telephone, cellular or internet services available to them.)

—Derrick James