The United States launched the 24/7 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline this month. The Lifeline supports individuals and their loved ones experiencing thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis or any other kind of emotional distress.
This three-digital number makes it easier for people to get the help they need from trained crisis counselors. The rationale for the Lifeline is clear:
- In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes.
- For people ages 10–34, suicide is a leading cause of death.
- From April 2020 through April 2021, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses.
In the face of these urgent realities, 988 is a universal entry point to access help from more than 200 state and local call centers. The Lifeline is available in 150 languages. Additionally, chat in English is available through their website.
Pacific Clinics and its partners advocated for the transition to the 3-digit line to ensure that life-saving services are even easier to reach. The initial Lifeline will also continue to function. Initially launched in 2005 with a 10-digital line of 1-800-273-8255, the Lifeline has helped many people. In 2021, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats and texts. Experts predict this figure will at least double within the first full year after transitioning to 988.
The Lifeline’s services are distinct and separate from the emergency medical and public safety response associated with 911. Ongoing coordination between 988 and 911 will help individuals obtain appropriate help, including support from mobile crisis teams, such as Pacific Clinics’ units in Santa Clara and Solano Counties.