Starting Saturday, Americans in all 50 states can call 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if they are in emotional distress or in a suicidal crisis.
According to Lifeline, “When people call, text or chat with 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who are part of Lifeline’s existing nationwide network for suicide prevention. These trained counselors will listen, understand how their issues affect them, will provide support, and connect them to resources as needed.”
The current number (1-800-273-8255) will always remain active, even after the launch of the 988 number, Lifeline said.
Not a day goes by that Dallas’ Cari Walker doesn’t think of her best friend.
“Everyone who knew him was drawn to him,” Walker said.
That’s why when Brad Stokes, who lived to laugh, died by suicide nearly five years ago, it motivated Walker to speak up about mental health advocacy.
And why she thinks Saturday, and the start of 988, marks such an important day.
“The fact that it went from 11 numbers to 3 is incredible,” Walker said.
Blanca Garcia is the director of mental health resources at the Grant Halliburton Foundation.
The Dallas-based nonprofit provides youth-focused mental health education and suicide prevention awareness.
Garcia thinks more people are likely to call for help and says the creation of 988 sends a message beyond just an easier-to-remember number.
“We put mental health on the same level, I think, as physical health,” Garcia said. “It’s really meant to make it easier for people to access help when they’re in a mental health crisis.”
Lifeline has a network of over 200 call centers that have been operating since 2005.
Counselors at these local crisis centers respond to contacts Lifeline receives each day. According to their website, studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed, and more optimistic after speaking with a counselor.
The centers are always looking for new volunteers and paid staff. To learn more, click here.
To find out more about what happens when you call or text 988, click here.
If you are depressed or having suicidal thoughts, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day by calling 988 talk to a counselor and get help.