Now just 3 digits, new suicide and crisis hotline number 988 goes live

·2 min read

Help is just three numbers away.

The free Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which launched this weekend nationwide, can be reached 24/7 by dialing 9-8-8. Lifeline counselors can also be reached by texting 9-8-8 or by live chatting via their website.

The hotline is meant to connect people in mental health-related distress — including distress stemming from substance use — or those who have a loved one in need of crisis support, with trained crisis counselors. The counselors listen, understand the caller’s needs and provide support or information on local resources as needed, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“All around us, more people are experiencing a mental health crisis,” NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. said in a statement issued after the new number went live July 16. “The nationwide availability of 988 is an important step forward, but the work to reimagine crisis response is just beginning. With 988, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine our response for people in crisis — and we cannot let it pass us by. Everyone in a mental health crisis deserves a mental health response and we need to continue to invest in building a crisis system.”

Suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth between ages 9 and 18 from 2016 to 2020 in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The 988 hotline is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The hotline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts in 2021 but federal officials expect usage to increase with the transition to the 3-digit number.

Formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the previous number for the hotline (1-800-273-8255) will remain active.

Gavin Stone, gavin.stone@virginiamedia.com