Today, “988” is the three-digit, nationwide phone number to connect directly to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect with mental health professionals with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Veterans can press “1” after dialing 988 to connect directly to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline which serves our nation’s Veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and those who support them. For texts, Veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code: 838255.
988 Lifeline voice, text, and chat options are offered in Spanish. To call a Spanish-speaking crisis counselor, dial 988 and then press “2.” To text with a Spanish-speaking crisis counselor, text AYUDA to 988. To chat with a Spanish-speaking crisis counselor, visit https://988lifeline.org/es/chat/. In addition, you can reach a specialized LGBTQI+ affirming counselor by texting “Q” to 988 or by pressing “3” when calling. Also, people can chat at 988lifeline.org for themselves or a loved one who may need crisis support.
On September 8, 2023, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration of the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) announced the launching of nationwide direct video calling to 988 for consumers fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). People who use American Sign Language can now use their videophones to contact 988 directly.
Too many people experience suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support and care they need. There are urgent mental health realities driving the need for crisis service transformation across our country. In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes—and for people aged 10-34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death.
There is hope. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. These centers are supported by local and state sources as well as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect to mental health professionals with the Lifeline network.
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To learn more about the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration's 988 resources and information to help spread the word, visit: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988.
Geolocation services are not currently enabled for 988, as they are for calls to 911. A caller’s location information is not transmitted with a 988 call for possible dispatch of emergency services. The Lifeline automatically routes calls by area code to the nearest crisis center. For example, when a caller located in Virginia with a 703 area code calls 988, the Lifeline will route the call to a Virginia Lifeline call center regardless of the caller’s location.
Call routing and geolocation are related location issues but involve different technical, legal, privacy, and cost considerations. As part of the 2020 Designation Act, the Federal Communications Commission submitted a report examining the feasibility and cost of providing more precise location information than area code with a 988 call. Within that report, the FCC recommended that Congress require that a multi-stakeholder group be convened to further examine the key issues and collaborate on potential next steps. The FCC also held a 988 Geolocation Forum in May 2022 and the agency is actively analyzing the information gathered during that forum, including whether potential routing improvements could help callers to 988 connect to the regional call centers where they are located without sharing geolocation information.
On September 28, 2023, FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel sent a series of letters encouraging wireless carriers and industry associations to take the necessary steps to identity and develop a 988 georouting solution that could be deployed in wireless networks nationwide. The 988 Lifeline has successfully tested a method of routing wireless 988 calls to a crisis call center near the physical location of the caller rather than by their phone’s area code. This test, which did not involve real-time calls, explored a routing method that directs the caller to a 988 crisis call center based on cell tower location and wire-center boundaries but does not share the precise location of the caller with the 988 Lifeline. These letters are the next step to build on the foundation of this initial test and further work with service providers/carriers to explore this potential solution for 988 calls.
988 Transition History
In a report to Congress in August 2019, Federal Communications Commission staff first proposed 988 as the nationwide, easy-to-remember, 3-digit dialing code for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to establish 988 as the nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit dialing code for people in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. On October 17, 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 was signed into law, incorporating 988 into statute as the new Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line phone number. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this critical service by establishing the ability to also text 988. As a result, covered phone service and text providers in the United States and the five major U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands— were required to direct all 988 calls and texts to the the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by July 16, 2022.
As part of the two year nationwide transition to 988, more than 80 area codes had to shift to 10-digit dialing. To ensure that calls to 988 reach the988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, all covered providers were required to implement 10-digit dialing in areas that both use seven-digit dialing and use 988 as the first three numbers in seven-digit phone numbers. On and after the July 16, 2022 implementation date, calls that begin with the digits 9-8-8, will be directed to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and cannot be dialed as part of a seven-digit phone number. If consumers accidently dial 988 as part of a local call, they must hang up and dial again using the area code and the seven-digit number. The North American Numbering Plan Administrator has a complete listing of affected area codes and resource materials for local government and community organizations.
General information about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available at www.fcc.gov/988 or https://988lifeline.org/help-yourself/for-deaf-hard-of-hearing/. For further information, please contact Michelle Sclater, Competition Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, at (202) 418-0388 or Michelle.Sclater@fcc.gov. Individuals who use videophones and are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) may call the FCC’s ASL Consumer Support Line at (844) 432-2275 (videophone).