988 National Suicide Prevention Hotline Launch

A new, nationwide, 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors is set to fully launch in the coming months.

In July 2020 the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to establish 988 as the easy-to-dial resource. 

Starting on July 16, 2022 callers in the U.S. will be able to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988. The rules require all phone service providers to direct all 988 calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022. 

Until full implementation, Americans who need help should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800- 273-TALK) and through online chats. 

Veterans and Service members may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, chatting online at www.veteranscrisisline.net, or texting 838255. 

The new rules will apply to all telecommunications carriers as well as all interconnected and one-way Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers. They provide for a two-year transition, reflecting the real challenges of this nationwide effort, including the need for widespread network changes and providing time for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to prepare for the expected increase in the volume of calls.

Under these rules, calls to 988 will be directed to 1-800-273-TALK, which will remain operational during the 988 transition and after it is completed.

To ensure that calls to 988 reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, all covered providers will be required to implement 10-digit dialing in areas that both use sevendigit dialing and use 988 as the first three numbers in seven-digit phone numbers. 

In order for 988 to work, 10-digit dialing will be implemented for all numbers. Locally, this 10-digit dialing is already in place.In 2017, all western Washington area codes switched to 10-digit dialing, leaving 509 as the only area code in the state that hasn’t made the change from seven digit to 10-digit dialing yet.  

In July 2022 service providers will completely remove seven-digit dialing from their networks.  

“Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans in 2018, resulting in about one death every 11 minutes. An FCC staff report to Congress in 2019 proposed establishing 988 as an easy to remember three-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Staff analyzed various options and determined 988 was the best option for increasing access to crisis resources and ensuring the fastest possible transition. Establishing the easy-to-remember 988 as the “911” for suicide prevention and mental health services will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues. “

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of approximately 170 crisis centers. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is the access point for the Veterans Crisis Line, which is managed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. 

You can read the FCC’s Order adopting 988.