- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now reachable at 988.
- The line is open for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or emotional distress.
- You can still reach trained counselors at the long number: 1-800-273-8255.
Americans will be able to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing just three digits — 988 — beginning Saturday.
The new 988 number is meant to make it easier for people to access the Lifeline in times of mental distress. Calls and texts to 988 will be directed to the existing network, which can also be reached at 1-800-273-8255.
On the other end of the line, trained employees and volunteers are prepared to respond to a range of mental health crises. People can call to talk through trauma, suicidal ideation, self-harm, addiction, or general emotional distress.
"It's a new number, but it's not a new service," John Draper, the executive director of the Lifeline, told the New York Times.
The service is free and confidential, save for situations where a caller needs immediate medical attention. In those cases, 988 will work with local police or hospitals to dispatch emergency help.
The Lifeline is meant for any emotional or mental health crises
The line has been renamed the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in a shift to encompass all mental health emergencies, including but not limited to suicidal ideation. Trained counselors on the other end of the line will be prepared to respond to a range of mental health concerns and forms of emotional distress, the Times reported.
The national hotline has been in service since 2005, when the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration launched the first emergency line specifically for suicide prevention. The service has grown to include 200 local call centers, as well as a national backup center.
Calls typically last 15 to 20 minutes, Draper told the Times. Counselors may help callers develop a "road map" of next steps to get help, such as community resources, or attempt to calm callers in times of crisis.
According to the 988 website, people can call the Lifeline to talk about substance abuse, financial troubles, relationships, sexual identity, trauma, and loneliness, among other concerns. You can also call for advice on behalf of a friend or loved one.
"No matter what problems you're dealing with, whether or not you're thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the Lifeline," the site reads.
People can text 988 or chat with a counselor online. There is also a crisis line specifically for veterans (call 988 or text 838255) and a number for Spanish speakers (1-888-628-9454).