988 Mental Health Crisis Line launches nationwide

Updated 7/21/2022 2:42 PM

As of July 16, every person in every community nationwide can dial "988" to reach trained crisis counselors who can help in a mental health, substance use or suicide crisis.

988 is the first step in re-imagining our crisis response, but there's more work to do to ensure everyone receives the help they need -- and deserve -- in a crisis.


Too often, people with mental illness do not receive a mental health response when experiencing a mental health crisis.

Instead, people in crisis often come into contact with law enforcement rather than a mental health professional. People in crisis deserve better. The lack of a robust mental health crisis system leads to tragic results.

One in four fatal police shootings between 2015 and 2020 involved a person with a mental illness, and an estimated 44% of people incarcerated in jail and 37% of people incarcerated in prison have a mental health condition. People with mental illness are booked into the nation's jails around two million times every year.

Millions more end up in emergency departments that are often ill-equipped to address mental health crises, often waiting hours or days to access care.

NAMI is committed to advancing efforts to re-imagine crisis response in our country. NAMI believes that every person in crisis, and their families, should receive a humane response that treats them with dignity and connects them to appropriate and timely care.

NAMI is calling for a standard of care for crisis services in every community that includes: 24/7 call centers that answer 988 calls locally, mobile crisis teams and crisis stabilization programs that end the revolving door of ER visits, arrests, incarceration and homelessness.

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In 2020, the nation took a significant step forward with the enactment of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, a bill NAMI advocated for that created a nationwide three-digit number (988) to assist people experiencing a mental health or suicidal crisis.

The Federal Communications Commission determined that this number would be available -- by both phone and text -- in July 2022, and is now available in communities across the country.

What is 988?

988 is the new three-digit dialing code connecting people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline), where compassionate, accessible care and support is available for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress -- whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress.

People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

The goal of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is to provide immediate crisis intervention and support. When someone calls 988, a trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, listen to the caller, understand how their problem is affecting them, provide support and share resources, as needed.

These crisis counselors will be able to resolve the urgent needs of the more than 80% of callers on the phone. For the remaining 20%, community services will differ, although NAMI is advocating for a full range of crisis services in every community.

Read more or register for a free weekly support group on NAMI Barrington Area's website, www.namiba.org, or follow on social @namibarringtonarea.

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