SAN ANGELO, Texas – The transition to a new three-digit suicide and crisis lifeline began across the United States on Saturday, July 16th. This new number, 988, is an easy-to-remember 24/7 hotline for crisis care that can be reached by calling or texting.
The new lifeline, which can also link to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to help reach more people who need crisis care.
According to a release from the FCC, a law was signed after the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2022 to allow 988 to be the new three-digit number for mental health and suicide crisis support. This law is known as the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act.
The FFC says that all telephone service and text providers in the U.S. and five major U.S. territories are required, by the FCC, to activate the 988 number no later than July 16th.
“All across our country, people are hurting. They need help. The good news is that getting
that help just got a lot easier. Starting [July 16th], 988 will be available nationwide for
individuals in crisis, and their loved ones, to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline more
easily,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This cross-government effort has
been years in the making and comes at a crucial point to help address the mental health crisis in
our country, especially for our young people.”
A network of more than 200 state and local call centers, which is funded by the HHS through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), makes up the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. According to the FCC, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts in 2021. The FFC expects that number to double in the first full year with the new number.
Along with the new number, the Veterans Crisis Line can also be reached by dialing 988 and pressing one because of a partnership between the VA and the Lifeline.
“988 has been a long time coming and will serve as a critical resource during a crisis when
every second counts. The new, shorter number will help ensure Veterans have easier access to
the Veterans Crisis Line,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “This launch is a whole-of-government approach in line with the President’s call to prioritize mental health by
strengthening access to crisis services, and preventing Veteran suicide, our top clinical
Although the transition to the new number is underway, the 10-digit Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will still continue to be operational.
Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or by chat or text to 838255.