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988 Lifeline Is Now Available: What Does That Mean For Its Users?


Team TrevorSpace

Triggers/Content Warning: The following blog post includes mentions of suicide, crisis, emergency services, and mental health distress.

What Is 988?

988 is a 24/7 suicide and crisis lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, that provides direct, life-saving services to all in need through its crisis care system.

Through the service, individuals can call, text, and/or chat (988) with trained counselors who can help people navigate through crises. The lifeline can also be used for those who may be worried about a loved one in need of crisis support. 

With the rollout of this new lifeline, come questions from the mental health and suicide prevention advocacy space regarding the safety of those who use the service. To debunk some of those myths, we took a closer look at how it all actually works. Read on for more information!

So, What Happens When You Reach Out? 

When using 988 as a resource, you’re put directly into contact with trained crisis counselors who work to find the least invasive, most relevant and effective care plan for an individual’s crisis. This process aims to bring mental health care and safety planning to all, while maintaining the overall safety of 988’s users.

To further protect those that reach out, 988 does not require the disclosing of personal information in order to receive immediate support from a crisis center. All 988 lifeline counselors are trained to assist anyone in co-creating a safety plan, regardless of location. 988 can also connect callers with localized resources and affirming counselors across the country, without requiring those that use the lifeline to drop a pin or share personal information. 

When Do Emergency Services Get Involved? 

988’s crisis counselors contact emergency services for assistance only in cases where risk of harm to self or others is imminent or in progress, which accounts for less than 2% of calls. Of that 2%, over half of these emergency dispatches occur with the caller’s consent. 988 recognizes that, for some individuals, having contact with emergency services can be traumatic and dangerous, and therefore it is only used when other interventions cannot be used.

The primary goal of the lifeline is to provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the moments they most need it and in a manner which is person-centered. The vast majority of those seeking help from the lifeline do not require any additional interventions at that moment and currently, fewer than 2% of 988 calls require connection to emergency services like 911. 

While some safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or Emergency Medical Services (namely when a suicide attempt is in progress), the 988 coordinated response is intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner.

For more information, visit the 988 Lifeline’s FAQ page: 988lifeline.org/faq/

If you are thinking about suicide or are in crisis:

  • In the United States, please reach out to The Trevor Project, open 24/7 and always ready to talk:
    • Call Lifeline at 866-488-7386
    • Text “TREVOR” to 678678
    • Start a chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help
  • Outside of the United States, visit Befrienders.org to find a helpline for your country.

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