Hope has a new number: 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

by Sarah Brummett, MA JD - Director for the Executive Committee, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a new easy-to-remember 3-digit dialing and texting code for anyone experiencing a suicidal, mental health, or substance use related crisis. The U.S.-based universal code connects to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — a network of local crisis centers across the country. And it increases access to trained counselors available 24/7.

Each year millions of Americans, including emergency responders and frontline healthcare workers, experience thoughts of suicide. We’ve seen a significant rise in overdose events – both fatal and nonfatal – over  the last few years. For every death by suicide, there are: 

  • 4 hospitalizations for suicide attempts
  • 8 emergency department visits related to suicide
  • 275 people who seriously considered suicide.1

Behind each of these data points, there are impacted individuals, families and communities. Yet, there is hope. Research shows 90% of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide.2 Connection to caring and competent help – like 988 – can help save lives.

The 988 Lifeline helps thousands of people through suicidal, mental health and substance use crises every day. And while 988 is the new dialing code, the existing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number will remain accessible.

Anyone looking for support for themselves or others can call or text 988 or use chat services by visiting 988lifeline.org.3

And this help doesn’t just apply to the general public. We know emergency responders also face significant stress and trauma. And 988 is here for you as well to serve as a universal entry point. So, no matter where you live in the United States, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help.

Connecting with supportive services like 988 also can help divert mental health-related calls away from 9-1-1 emergency dispatch. The 988 hubs help facilitate connections with responsive community-based mental- and behavioral-health services. Efforts already are underway at the community level to coordinate 988 and 9-1-1 protocols so people receive the right response at the right time.

The federal government and partners from across many industries in the public and private sectors are working together to provide guidance to make our work a little easier. 

For example:

  • The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and its 988 Messaging Task Force developed the 988 Messaging Framework to provide guidance on 988-related messaging. We encourage you to closely review these guidelines, as they outline key considerations and connects to key messaging resources related to 988.a
  • The Action Alliance has worked with leaders in the public safety sector – like the National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Public Safety Task Force and others – to create guidance for suicide prevention. Some of the tools include the National Consortium on Preventing Law Enforcement Suicide Toolkit and Firefighters Coping with the Aftermath of Suicide. The latter is a video that explores the effect of suicide on firefighters and first responders.

  • With support from FirstNet, Built with AT&T, the Action Alliance, is bringing together public safety leaders this fall to continue the discussion of 988 and elevate suicide prevention and wellness needs in public safety.

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the national federal lead for 988, created the 988 Partner Toolkit. This toolkit is a one-stop-shop of resources available at samhsa.gov/988. It’s  intended for SAMHSA’s 988 implementation partners. This includes crisis call centers, state mental health programs, substance use treatment providers, behavioral health systems and others. And it provides key messages, FAQs, logo, brand guidelines, social media shareables, wallet cards, magnets, media end cards, and other resources on the basics of 988.  SAMHSA will continue to add resources to this toolkit over time.

  • SAMHSA has worked with partners across several critical industries to create a holistic view of readiness for the implementation of 988 for states, territories, tribes, crisis contact centers, public safety answering points (PSAPs) and behavioral health providers. Through these efforts, SAMHSA created guidance documents (i.e., “playbooks”) for these groups to support the implementation of 988.

  • Specifically, the PSAPs playbook includes a self-assessment tool to help PSAPs assess their readiness as they transition to 988 and prioritize areas of focus. It’s not intended to evaluate and it will not collect or aggregate responses. Rather, the playbook will help PSAPs focus their efforts as the country moves toward integrated crisis care. Coordination between 9-1-1 PSAPs and 988 Crisis Centers will be important moving forward.

While this is an exciting time to reimagine how we provide responsive crisis services in the U.S., this won’t happen overnight. Transformation of this scale will take time. And we must all work together to make it happen. 

We need to speak with one voice about 988 to ensure clear understanding about what it is, how it will work, and how we can work to make it better. As SAMHSA and others continue updating their resources on 988 implementation, we will continue to share updates. And we look forward to working with you to elevate these critical life-saving services in communities across the country.

Thank you for all you do for keeping our communities and emergency responders safe.

Sarah Brummett serves as the Director for the Executive Committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention which brings together leaders from both public and private sectors to implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. In this role, Sarah works with the Action Alliance leadership team to provide oversight and support to the Executive Committee, the Action Alliance task forces and advisory groups, as well as identifies key opportunities to advance elements of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. Before joining the team, Sarah served as the Director for the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, the state lead for suicide prevention, intervention supports, and postvention efforts. Sarah provided leadership and oversight in setting statewide priorities and worked in collaboration with state agencies and community organizations to develop and implement effective strategies for a comprehensive and coordinated public health approach to suicide. 

1 Retrieved from CDC.Gov/suicide/suicide-data-statistics.html which compiles data from CDC WISQARS and SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

2 Retrieved from

3 Chat and Text currently only available in English