On Saturday, July 16, the National Suicide Hotline will have a new number: 988.
The hotline will be for people experiencing mental distress. Anyone in the United States can text or call 988 to reach trained mental health counselors who will direct them to additional resources for treatment.
The hotline's previous number, (800) 273-8255, will still work. However, experts worry that the 11 digits are too long to remember during a crisis. The new, three-digit number is easy to remember and will provide a simpler way to get emergency care.
Trained employees and volunteers will staff the hotline 24 hours per day. Depending on your state, staff can also connect you with local crisis teams. The line will be referred to as the "988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline," to clarify that the service is not just for those experiencing suicidal ideation, but mental health crises of any kind.
Counselors on the line will be able to handle a variety of mental health issues, including self-harm and addiction struggles, and help people process traumatic events. You can also call on behalf of someone else, if you need advice on how to help a struggling loved one.
Calls will vary in length, but tend to last between 15 and 20 minutes. Most conversations are resolved in a manner that does not require immediate intervention like hospitalization.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, studies have shown that lifelines really help. Callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking to a lifeline counselor.
If you need help before Saturday, the old hotline number, (800) 273-8255, will still be in use. Calls to both numbers will remain free and confidential.