Starting July 16, you can call or text 988 for help.
This article contains discussions about suicide. If you or a loved one are struggling, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
These days, it feels like we’re living in a constant state of stress and upheaval, which is taking a toll on our mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide rates in the U.S. have increased by more than a third since 2000. Whether the culprit is social media, economic recessions, the pandemic, or the rolling back of human rights, one thing is for sure: We were long overdue for a suicide hotline number that people can actually remember. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait much longer.
Starting July 16, anyone in the U.S. will be able to call or text 988 to talk to a mental health counselor from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, BuzzFeed News reported. The lifeline helps guide those who are going through mental health crises — who are sometimes dealt with by law enforcement, to deadly consequences — toward the right resources.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline itself isn’t new — but until now, the phone number was a head-numbing ten digits long at 1-800-273-8255, which isn’t exactly easy to keep front-of-mind. The new 988 number is a result of the National Suicide Designation Act of 2020, which required the three-digit line be implemented by July 2022.
Marginalized communities will likely benefit the most from having easily accessible mental health service; the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act even acknowledges the importance of having people who are actually competent at speaking to vulnerable communities. Among other things, the bill recommends the hotline offers “specially trained staff and partner organizations for LGBTQ youth, minorities, rural individuals, and other high-risk populations.”
It’s difficult to overstate just how important it is to have a quick and easy number to dial for these services. 988 will likely save lives, considering according to one study, the average window of time between when someone contemplated suicide and actually attempted it was less than 5 minutes; for three-quarters of people, it was less than an hour. Those first several minutes when someone needs help are absolutely vital. So let’s get this number drilled into our heads now: 988. 988. 988. 988.
Until and after July 16, people can still call the existing lifeline number at 1-800-273-8255.