The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has shortened its number to the 3-digit, 988. Like the 911 emergency line, people across the country can dial 988 in a mental health crisis.
In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to be operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 code was implemented nationwide on July 16, 2022. Individuals can call, text or chat using 988 to connect with a trained crisis response professional. The 988 Lifeline operates 24/7. Anyone experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress can call, free of charge. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
How Will 988 Operate in Pennsylvania?
When someone calls 988, they will be directed to one of the 13 PA call centers based on the caller’s zip code. (Callers are also given the option to press 1 for the Veterans Crisis Line or press 2 for a Spanish speaker.) If the local call center does not answer the call in 60 seconds, the call will be transferred to one of PA’s three regional call centers to speak to a trained crisis professional.
How Can a 988 Trained Crisis Professional Help?
A crisis professional/counselor can offer emotional support; connect the caller to local resources; activate a mobile mental health crisis team if needed; provide therapeutic interventions; make referrals for outpatient services; or connect the caller to transportation for a mental health evaluation. The call to 988 is confidential.
The goal of 988 is to reach people in a mental health crisis and provide appropriate supports. Too often, people struggling with their mental health end up arrested or in the emergency department of a hospital without access to appropriate services. Increased state and federal funding are needed to support the increased mental health needs of Pennsylvanians and across the country.
The existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-8255) will continue to work. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Line can be reached by calling 988, texting 988 or chatting via Lifeline’s website.