National Crisis Hotline Adopting Shorter Number

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The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988.

For years now, those experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal urges have been urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. However, because that line requires a 10-digit number and may get a busy signal or hold line, it does not always provide the immediate aid that someone could need in an emergency. In these situations, many people call 911 instead, but 911 operators aren’t equipped to handle that kind of emergency. To meet this need, a new hotline is being established, a dedicated crisis management line with a much simpler number: 988.

Starting July 16, any American who is experiencing a personal crisis, mental health emergency, or suicidal urges, is urged to call or text 988 on their phone to contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This new number will immediately connect you with a trained mental health professional, no wait lines, no busy signals.

“If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, 988 will be there,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of health and human services, said at a press briefing. “988 won’t be a busy signal, and 988 won’t put you on hold. You will get help.”

A 988 call will connect you to one of the 200 approved crisis centers located around the United States, usually whichever one is closest to your location. If that location is unavailable for whatever reason, you’ll be immediately transferred to the nearest backup center. Trained counselors at these centers will do their best to talk callers down, and if more serious, in-person care is required, they can connect them to it promptly.

“The transition to 988 has come to represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revisit and reconceptualize how crisis services are resourced and delivered in communities across the country,” says Colleen Carr, director of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention at Education Development Center.

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