New 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline launched in Massachusetts on July 16. This new three-digit dialing code is available nationwide and will expand and improve support for those experiencing crisis situations including mental health, suicide, substance use, and emotional distress.
The new, and easy to remember, 988 dialing code will operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-8255). The 988 dialing code does not mean that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is going away - both numbers will remain available to callers.
Given that suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States and that over 100,000 people nationwide died from a drug overdose in the past year, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline will be a tremendous resource and support for communities nationwide. Numerous studies show that the Lifeline works. Most callers report that they feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to a Lifeline crisis counselor.
How do I connect with the 988 line?
The free and confidential 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Those experiencing a crisis can call, text, or chat with a trained crisis counselor.
Call 988 to speak with a trained counselor in English or Spanish (translation services are available in over 250 additional languages). Text 988 to connect with a trained counselor (only available in English at this time). Chat with a trained counselor at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat (only available in English at this time).
What happens when I call?
Those who connect with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will receive compassionate, accessible care and support from a trained counselor. When calls are made in Massachusetts, non-clinical, trained counselors will listen to the caller, understand how their problem is affecting them, provide support, and share resources if needed. People can also connect with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if they are worried about a loved one. The vast majority of calls do not require emergency services. However, if there are significant safety or health-related concerns trained counselors can connect callers with emergency services like 911. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline aims to provide callers with coordinated care in the least restricted manner.
Where do calls made in Massachusetts go?
Calls made in Massachusetts are distributed to one of five regional centers which are part of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline network and located throughout the state. The five regional centers are Call2Talk, Samaritans, Inc., Samaritans SouthCoast, Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, and Samaritans of Cape Cod and the Islands. Calls are distributed to the closest regional center based on the caller’s area code.
What additional services are coming in the future?
The new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will provide a more robust and strengthened crisis response system with a universal entry point. In order to meet the national need for crisis care, the goal is of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is to provide tools and resources as well as a referral system to community-based providers who can provide a full range of services. Over time, the vision is for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to function similar to national crisis emergency medical services.
In Massachusetts, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will be available on July 16, 2022 and provide non-clinical crisis care. Massachusetts will also be launching an additional Behavioral Health Help Line (BHHL) in January 2023. This separate helpline will be staffed by clinicians and provide callers with clinical assessments and connections to care and/or emergency services depending upon the circumstance. The vision is that together these two helplines will address the high level of mental and behavioral health needs in Massachusetts.
Where can I learn more?
To learn more about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, visit www.mass.gov/988 or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Public Health