Introducing 988, the new crisis lifeline number
Did you hear? There’s a new emergency number nationwide to help anyone going through an emotional crisis. Just like 911 is the universal emergency number, 988 is now the new dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a network of local call centers staffed by trained crisis counselors.
As of July 16th, anyone can now call or text 988 at any time to reach a counselor who can offer support during a mental health crisis such as suicidal thoughts, substance abuse or any other kind of emotional distress.
This resource is so much more than that- it is a lifeline. According to the Alaska Department of Health, for every person who does lose their life to suicide every year, there are 316 people who have seriously considered suicide but do not kill themselves. While those reasons are unknown, the statistic paints a picture of how prevalent suicidal thoughts are and how great an impact easy-to-access intervention can have.
Suicide is often preventable, which means that having those difficult conversations with someone in a moment of crisis has incredible potential to save lives.
Here’s what you should know about 988:
It provides direct access to a crisis counselor with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, through phone calls or text messages. This counselor can provide confidential support for anyone experiencing an emotional crisis.
Support is available 24/7 for anyone of any age, including non-English speakers and the deaf or hard of hearing.
Crisis counselors can talk to anyone for however long they need to talk through their situation, as well as follow up with them directly after the crisis and connect them with other resources for support.
The number is new but the resource isn’t. While this resource has long been available through the organization’s direct number, 988 makes it easier for anyone in a crisis to quickly reach someone who can help.
The overall goal of this new dialing code, which was designated by Congress in 2020, is to improve mental health crisis response for people across the country.
For Alaskans and especially the youth we serve, we are optimistic that 988 will be a transformative step in the fight against suicide.
If you or a friend or loved one is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, including suicidal thoughts or any other kind of emotional distress, call or text 988 to reach immediate support. Additionally, Alaskans can still reach out to the state’s Careline if they’re feeling sad, depressed or just need someone to talk to. The Careline number, 877-266-HELP, will continue to be available to Alaskans in need.