988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

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988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline logo - navy - square.svg
FormationJanuary 1, 2005; 17 years ago (2005-01-01)[1]
PurposeSuicide prevention
Headquarters50 Broadway, New York City, U.S. 10004
Official language
English; Spanish also available on the hotline
Key people
Dr. John Draper
Website988lifeline.org Edit this at Wikidata
Formerly called
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (2004–2022)

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The caller is routed to their nearest crisis center to receive immediate counseling and local mental health referrals. The lifeline supports people who call for themselves or someone they care about.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline grant is one component of the National Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI), a multi-project effort to reduce suicide, led by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Center for Mental Health Services.[2]

In July 2004, SAMHSA released a notice of funding availability (NOFA) as part of its National Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI). In keeping with SAMHSA's duty to advance the goals of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, the NOFA called for proposals from nonprofit organizations for using a toll-free number and website to expand, enhance and sustain a network of certified crisis centers providing suicide prevention and intervention services to those in need.

In September 2004, the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC) was selected to administer the federally funded network of crisis centers named the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.[3]

On January 1, 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was launched by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Vibrant Emotional Health.[4]

In April 2017, for his third album Everybody, American rapper Logic released a song featuring Canadian singer Alessia Cara and American singer Khalid titled "1-800-273-8255", the number used for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. On the day of the song's release, the lifeline received one of its highest daily call volumes; Lifeline's Facebook page also received triple the usual number of visitors, and its website reported "a 17% increase in users in May 2017 over the previous month."[5] The song was made to bring awareness to the hotline and to the problems associated with suicide. Calls to the hotline increased by 50% the night the song was featured on the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards. Many of the callers to several crisis centers have mentioned Logic's song, and a third of those callers were struggling with suicidal thoughts.[5] The song was performed at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards as a tribute to Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington, who had committed suicide in the previous year.

The National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 required the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies to consider a three-digit number for the hotline.[6] On August 15, 2019, FCC staff recommended that the Commission designate the number 988 for the hotline.[7] On December 12, 2019, the Commission approved a proposed rule starting the process for public commenting and final rulemaking.[8] The rule was adopted on July 16, 2020, in final form in a 5–0 vote by the FCC.[9] The rule required telecommunication carriers to implement the telephone number 988 to route calls to the existing service number by July 16, 2022. This provided sufficient time to expand staff and training to handle the anticipated call volume.[10] Areas that had seven-digit dialing and numbers that began with 988 were required to either change to ten-digit dialing or retire their 988 prefix; where ten-digit dialing was elected (which was the case in 82 area code regions; only one area retired the prefix), it was required to be implemented by October 24, 2021.[11][12]

On October 17, 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661) was signed into law to support the implementation of the hotline.[13] Disability advocates, calling for equity, petitioned the FCC to implement text-to-988 service for hard-of-hearing and speech-disabled people.[14] The following month, on November 20, 2020, T-Mobile became the first wireless carrier to implement the 9-8-8 number for voice calls.[15][16][17]

Massachusetts officials asked the FCC to change the basis of routing calls from area code of the cell phone number, to physical location.[18]

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was renamed to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline on July 15, 2022.[19] 9-8-8 was officially implemented as the toll-free nationwide telephone number for the hotline on July 16.[20]

Proposed use of 9-8-8 in Canada[edit]

In June 2021, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recommended using a three-digit number, most likely 9-8-8, for a similar program in Canada. If 9-8-8 is chosen, the last four area codes with seven-digit dialing and numbers that begin with 988—506, 709, 807 and 867—will have to convert to ten-digit dialing.[21]

As of July 2022, the use of 9-8-8 or any similar number has not yet been finalized by the CRTC; a Health Canada statement that month indicated it expected a CRTC decision on the matter before the end of 2022,[22] and the use of 9-8-8 would require the implementation of ten-digit dialing in the remaining area codes noted above, which may require additional time. In June 2022, as an interim measure, the CRTC directed mobile service providers to provide automated messaging to those calling or texting 9-8-8 on or after July 16, 2022, redirecting them to Canada's existing suicide prevention services: 1-833-456-4566 for voice calls, or text 741741 (adults), 686868 (youth), or 1-855-957-5353 (Quebec residents).[23]

Referrals from search engines[edit]

Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com and most social media services return the phone number and website of the lifeline as the first result for searches related to suicide, such as "how to tie a noose" or "I want to die".[24]

Veterans hotline[edit]

In June 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partnered with SAMHSA and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide a veterans hotline to help vets in emotional crisis.[25] Callers who identify themselves as U.S. military veterans are routed to a special veterans hotline. This service caters to VA-specific mental health needs, and helps connect vets to the VA Healthcare system. In addition to the hotline, the veterans hotline also offers text messaging support through texting to 838255, as well as an online chat service for those who want to use the hotline.[26]

Concerns about emergency response[edit]

Some people expressed concern that calling the hotline could result in a police response, involuntary commitment, and medical bills. Though the hotline cannot geolocate callers, it can provide a phone number or IP address to 911 dispatch, which does have the ability to geolocate. The hotline operator reported that before 988 was adopted, it dispatched emergency services (police or mental health team if available) for about 2% of calls. Its policy is to do so only if the caller does not cooperate with making a safety plan and seems likely to act on a plan to kill themselves imminently.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About". 988lifeline.org. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  2. ^ "CMHS Programs: National Suicide Prevention Initiative". Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  3. ^ "Lonely? Trapped? Hopeless? Alone? When it seems like there is no hope, there is help". Archived from the original on 2008-05-14. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  4. ^ "About". 988lifeline.org. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  5. ^ a b "Logic Tweets National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Statistics Since His '1-800' Release". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  6. ^ "H.R.2345 - National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018". Congress.gov. 14 August 2018. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  7. ^ "FCC Staff Recommends that Commission Consider Designating 988 as the 3-digit Number for a National Suicide Prevention Hotline" (PDF). FCC. 2019-08-15. Retrieved 2019-08-15.
  8. ^ "FCC votes to set up 3-digit suicide hotline number like 911". Associated Press. 2019-12-12.
  9. ^ "FCC Designates '988' as 3-Digit Number for National Suicide Prevention Hotline" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. 2020-07-15. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  10. ^ Kelly, Makena (2020-07-17). "The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be available by dialing '988' in 2022". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  11. ^ Bentley, Drake (12 March 2021). "Wisconsin residents will soon be required to dial the area code in order to make local calls". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Transition to 10-digit dialing (for 988 as 3-digit access to National Suicide Prevention Hotline)" (PDF). NANPA. January 8, 2021. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  13. ^ "Nation's Largest Suicide Prevention Organization Celebrates National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661) Becoming Law". AP NEWS. 2020-10-19. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  14. ^ "Advocates Urge FCC To Make Suicide Hotline More Accessible - Law360". www.law360.com. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  15. ^ Blumenthal, Eli (2020-11-20). "T-Mobile adds 988 suicide prevention hotline to its network". CNET. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  16. ^ Lyons, Kim (2020-11-20). "T-Mobile becomes first carrier to enable 988 number for mental health services". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  17. ^ "T‑Mobile Makes 988 Emergency Lifeline's Critical Mental Health Support Services Immediately Available to Customers | T‑Mobile Newsroom". T-Mobile Newsroom. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  18. ^ The '988' mental health hotline is coming. But will Massachusetts be ready?
  19. ^ Administration (SAMHSA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (2022-07-15). "U.S. Transition to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Begins Saturday". HHS.gov. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  20. ^ Leader, Daily (2022-07-16). "National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now 9-8-8". Daily Leader. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  21. ^ "Call for comments – Introduction of a three-digit abbreviated dialing code for mental health crisis and suicide prevention services". 3 June 2021.
  22. ^ "Mental health experts say Canada needs a 3-digit suicide crisis hotline". The Canadian Press. July 17, 2022. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
  23. ^ Legros, Lisanne (June 15, 2022). "Telecom - Commission Letter addressed to the Distribution List". Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  24. ^ "How do search engines respond when you Google 'suicide'?". DailyDot. 6 April 2015.
  25. ^ "988 - Veterans Crisis Line".
  26. ^ Health, Mental. "Mental Health Home". www.mentalhealth.va.gov. Retrieved 2019-05-11.
  27. ^ Social media posts warn people not to call 988. Here's what you need to know

External links[edit]