National leaders travel to Philly to launch 988, new suicide prevention lifeline dialing code

Officials said the current number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), will remain open for use after the launch of 988.

Friday, July 15, 2022
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary was in Philadelphia on Friday to announce the launch of 988, the new dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lif

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary was in Philadelphia on Friday to announce the launch of 988, the new dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The code, 988, will be available to call or text starting Saturday, July 16, and will serve as the suicide prevention and mental health crisis lifeline.

Anyone across the country in need of help or looking for someone to talk to about struggles can use the code to reach a trained counselor.

"When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary," the Lifeline's website says.

Officials said the current number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), will remain open for use after the launch of 988.

The original lifeline has been in operation since 2005.

In 2020, leaders of the U.S. Federal Communications Commissioners voted to finalize 988 as the new number.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra was joined Friday by Dr. Ala Stanford, Mayor Jim Kenney and other leaders in West Philadelphia to make the official announcement about the nationwide launch.

"It is one of the leading causes of death in adolescents 10 to 24. We also know that in communities of color that suicide has increased, and suicidal ideation, as well as with our LGBTQ communities," said Dr. Stanford.

"If we can get 988 to work like 911 ... lives will be saved,'' said Becerra.

What Happens When Someone Calls the Lifeline?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline explains what someone will hear when they call 988:

"They will hear our automated greeting message that features additional options.

"You have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, also serving the Veterans Crisis Line. Pare espanol, oprima numero dos. If you are in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, or are concerned about someone who might be, we are here to help. If you are a US military veteran or current service member, or calling about one, please press 1 now. Otherwise, please hold while we route your call to the nearest crisis center in our network."

We'll play a little music while we connect the caller to a skilled, trained crisis counselor. Our phone system will route the call to the closest crisis center in the Lifeline network based on area code. Each crisis center picks their coverage area (which can be defined by zip code, area code, county, or even state), and their hours of operation.

A trained crisis counselor at a local center will answer the phone.

This person will listen to the caller, work to understand what the caller is experiencing, provide support, and collaborate with the caller on ways to feel better and connect with any needed help or resources."

Know the Warning Signs

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline says some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings