988 suicide prevention hotline to launch nationwide

NBC – Beginning Saturday, people experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to call or text a three-digit number, 988, to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and connect with mental health professionals trained to respond to such emergencies.

The hotline will provide 24/7 free and confidential emotional support around the country to those in mental health distress, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website explains. 

The new number will connect the caller to a certified crisis center in the area where the call is placed, according to the website. The hotline is made up of a network of 200 local crisis centers around the country.

“When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network,” the website says. “These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.”

The three-digit number is expected to be easier to remember in times of crisis than the 10-digit 800 number currently handled by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is also meant to streamline mental health responses so people can get the urgent help they need much faster than by calling 911, which generally connects callers to law enforcement agencies rather than mental health professionals.

Its launch comes about two years after the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act passed in 2020 to designate 988 as the universal number for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

Until the new hotline becomes operative, someone in immediate crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources. The 10-digit current hotline number will also remain available after the new national number launches.

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