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Get the Facts About 988


What is 988? Can I only utilize 988 if I am experiencing a mental health crisis? 

The 988 Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls, chats or texts from anyone who needs support for suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crisis, and connects those in need with trained crisis counselors. There are many reasons that people connect with the 988 Lifeline. Some examples in addition to thoughts of suicide are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, sexual orientation worries, drinking too much, drug use, feeling depressed, mental and physical illness, loneliness, trauma, relationships, and economic worries.


Is there a cost associated with utilizing 988?

People using the 988 Lifeline are not required to provide any payment or insurance information to receive support. However, standard data rates from telecommunication mobile carriers may apply to those who text to the 988 Lifeline.  


How long will I have to wait to talk to a counselor?

The people answering the 988 Lifeline are located in more than 200 local and state-run crisis centers. They will listen, support, assess your situation, share resources, and make community connections. Average wait times can vary based on usage surges and other factors. At the time of publishing these FAQs, average time to answer once you have completed the greeting is typically under a minute. Sometimes, the wait may be longer; please know that your reach out is important and that a caring counselor will respond as soon as they can.


Does the old suicide lifeline (1-800-273-8255) still work?

Yes. Although the 10-digit number was transitioned to the easier-to-remember “988” in July 2022, it remains functional and will connect you to 988 Lifeline services.


How is 988 different from 911? 

The 988 Lifeline was established to improve both accessibility of crisis services and to meet the nation’s growing suicide and mental health-related crisis care needs. The 988 Lifeline provides easier access to mental health crisis care through a 200+ network of crisis call, text, and chat centers, separate from the public safety purposes of 911, where the focus is on dispatching emergency medical services, fire, and police, as needed.


SAMHSA is working towards a long-term vision of strong coordination between the two services so people in crisis get to the most appropriate care needed in that moment. SAMHSA is actively working with 911 counterparts at the federal, state, and local levels as our country continues to improve crisis care systems.


Currently, a small percentage of 988 Lifeline callers require activation of the 911 system, and most of those are done with the consent and cooperation of the caller. This occurs when there is an imminent risk to someone’s life that cannot be reduced during the 988 Lifeline call. In these cases, the crisis counselor shares information with 911 that is crucial to saving the caller’s life.


If I call 988, will 911 be dispatched? 

The primary goal of the 988 Lifeline is to provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the moments they need it most and in a manner that is person-centered. The vast majority of those seeking help from the 988 Lifeline do not require any additional interventions at that moment. Currently, fewer than two percent of Lifeline calls require a connection to emergency services like 911. While some safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or Emergency Medical Services (namely when a suicide attempt is in progress), the 988 Lifeline coordinated response is intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner.


Are there specialized services for LGBTQI+ youth who reach out to 988?

Yes. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) youth and young adults under the age of 25 who want to connect with a counselor specifically focused on meeting their needs can call 988 and select option 3, text “Y” to 988 or access the service via chat.


Does 988 accommodate those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or blind?

Callers who are Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened can directly dial 988 on a videophone or click the "ASL Now" button on 988lifeline.org to connect with crisis counselors who can communicate in ASL and are trained in working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.


Does the 988 Lifeline trace the location of people who call, text, or chat?

When you reach out to the 988 Lifeline, the crisis counselor who responds to you will know your phone number via call or your IP address if you are using chat. Beyond that, they will not know who you are or where you are located. You are not required to provide personal information to receive support from the 988 Lifeline.


If a 988 Lifeline crisis counselor makes an effort to gather information during a call, text, or chat, it will be to: 1) save lives; 2) connect people to ongoing support; and 3) evaluate 988 Lifeline services.

In rare situations when a 988 crisis counselor has to reach out to a 911 dispatcher because of concerns about an immediate risk to life, 911 may be asked to initiate a precise geolocation lookup with the Internet Service Provider or wireless carrier. This is needed because 988 does not have access to your precise location when you reach out.


How do calls to 988 get routed?

Currently, calls to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline are routed to the nearest geographic 988 crisis call center based on the defined location of the first six digits (area code and prefix) of the caller's phone number, regardless of the actual location of the caller. This means that a wireless call could be directed to a 988 crisis call center that is not the nearest one to the person reaching out for support. For example, if a person experiencing a crisis in Colorado dials 988 using a cell phone number with a New York area code, that person is routed to the New York call center covering that area code rather than the call center aligned to their physical location in Colorado.


Is there culturally aware staff on call for 988?

There is some cultural training required for the Contact Center Specialists pertaining to certain age groups, Veterans, service members, and LGBTQ. They’re working to add some pertaining to Native American populations. There isn’t any regarding undocumented populations at this time.

988-911 Trajectory 

Only 1% of calls to 988 answered by the CT contact center are assessed to be in imminent risk and are connected to 911 for active rescue.

For example, in Dec 2023 of 3,622 total calls, 33 were connected to 911 for active rescue due to screening positive for imminent risk. That’s actually 0.9 %. The United Way of CT Contact Center Specialists are highly trained and very effective at helping calm people during crisis. Each contact center is very different.


Is 988 available in Spanish?

Yes, in July of 2023, one year after the rollout of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its 988 partners announced the addition of the Spanish call, text and chat services. 988 Lifeline voice, text, and chat options are offered in Spanish. To call a Spanish-speaking crisis counselor, dial 988 and then press 2. To text with a Spanish-speaking crisis counselor, text AYUDA to 988. To chat with a Spanish-speaking crisis counselor, please click here.


Learn more about 988 by visiting 988lifeline.org



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