Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Gets New Number


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

As of July 16, 2022 all phone service and text providers in the United States are required to direct all 988 calls and texts to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This change also includes American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The transition to 988 coincided with a shift in 80 area codes to 10-digit dialing. This shift ensures that all texts and calls to 988 reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

The 988 fact sheet provided by the Federal Communications Commission reported that the United States had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes in the year 2020. The leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 years is suicide. In 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline launched 1-800-273-8255 and received 46,000 calls within the first year. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers.

Texting 988 is a service many people do not realize is available. A person can simply text a word or two to the number. They will then receive a series of messages asking for additional information. The first message says, “Welcome to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If you are a Veteran or Military Service Member, you may text the Veterans Crisis Line directly at 838255. We’re here to help. If you accept our Terms of Service (they provide a link) and be connected with a counselor, please reply YES.” 

If the person using the lifeline replies “yes” (not case sensitive), they will receive an automated message that will offer additional support to LGBTQ+ people. LGBTQ+ support is offered to people under 25 from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. E.S.T. A person can then reply “yes” to receive additional information on these services. 

Then, another message asks the person using the lifeline to share if they have thoughts of suicide and to reply with either, “a. Yes, within 24 hours; b. Yes, within two months; c. no.” This is followed by asking the person to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 to rate how upset they currently are, with 1 being “I’m okay”, 3 being “moderately upset” and 5 being “extremely upset.” 

After these messages, the person using the lifeline is queued to wait for a counselor and offered a link to a brief survey to fill out for the counselor’s use in offering support. When connected to a counselor, that counselor will introduce themself and asks questions pertaining to particular concerns related to the current crisis. 

If a person using the service does not respond for a short period of time, the counselor will send messages such as, “I see you’ve stepped away. Whenever you want to speak again, please reach out. We’re open 24/7.” Once the conversation is over, there will be a series of messages thanking the person for using the service and offering a survey to provide feedback.

988 offers an important, accessible service that no one should be afraid to use.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call or text the National Suicide Lifeline at 988.