988: The New U.S. Suicide and Crisis Hotline
Updated: Nov 7
By Patty Laushman
As of July 16, 2022, there is one number to call, text, or chat if you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress. That number is 988.
It's like making a 911 call, but for mental distress. Calls are routed to a network of more than 200 local crisis centers. The people on the other end are counselors trained in handling mental and behavioral health issues. They will listen, try to understand what’s going on, provide free 24/7 and confidential support, and connect callers to resources, if necessary.
One thing I love about this program is the Individual and Family Lived Experience Committee that ensures the Lifeline is effectively reaching critical and diverse populations at higher risk for suicide.
These populations specifically include Individuals with Neurodivergence and the LGBTQ+ community. This is important because a January 2021 study of more than 6.5 million people ages 10 and older living in Denmark from 1995 to 2016 found that individuals with a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder had three times the rate of suicide attempts and and suicide compared to people without an autism diagnosis. And according to The Trevor Project, suicide risk for LGBTQ+ youth has increased in the last few years.
Despite increased funding, some states are struggling to fill positions related to 988. Many centers are looking to bring on new paid employees as well as caring volunteers. If you feel a calling to help those in crisis, you can answer that call and find your opportunity here.