Don’t give up, dial 988

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024

It’s not there quite yet, but the hope is that 988 will become as recognizable as 911 for Americans during an era of unprecedented levels of mental illness in this country.

The number connects callers with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). Congress designated 988 in 2020, part of a massive investment in crisis centers such as Harbor Point. Gov. Glenn Youngkin has since made treatment of mental illness a priority in Virginia, acknowledging its impact on people and families, as well as its toll on law enforcement, which has become the de facto front line in a battle that is more societal and medical than criminal. 

988 is confidential, free and available 24/7/365, connecting those experiencing a mental health, substance use or suicidal crisis with trained crisis counselors. Access is available through every landline, cell phone and voice-over-internet device in the United States, and call/text services are also available in Spanish, along with interpretation services in more than 150 languages, Harbor Point reports. 

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Since the launch of 988 in 2022, data show an increase in overall calls, texts, and chats – all while answer rates are significantly improving. More people are getting connected to care (and connected sooner) than ever before. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 8.1 million calls, texts and chats have been received and routed.

98% of people who contact 988 are helped by a trained crisis counselor, resources are shared and community connections are made (without the involvement of 911) during the call/text/chat. Some 9,360 people call 988 on an average day.

If you are in crisis, please call, text, or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For more information, go to 988lifeline.org.