The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is now available for all to access nationwide. This is a milestone moment in this country’s history for suicide prevention, crisis, and mental health services everywhere. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
A behavioral health crisis needs a behavioral health response. 988 was established to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets our country’s growing crisis behavioral health care needs. 988 provides easier access to related behavioral health crisis resources, which are distinct from 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire, and police as needed).
- 988 provides a reliable, easy-to-remember three digit code that ensures everyone, everywhere in the United States, has access to high-quality mental and behavioral health crisis support whenever they should need it.
- 988 is a new, free and easy to remember nationwide helpline for emotional, mental or substance use crisis. It’s one part of a larger initiative to build out a behavioral health infrastructure for people in distress to have “someone to call, someone to come to you, and somewhere to go”.
- 988 calls, texts, and chats are answered by trained, compassionate behavioral health professionals who know community mental health and substance use resources. They will listen, offer support and work together with the caller to develop a plan for safety and recovery.
- 988 can open the door for people to seek mental well-being or substance use help, while sending the message that healing, hope, and help are happening every day.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has arrived in New Mexico. And there is tremendous need given that:
- In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes.
- New Mexico has the 4th highest rate of deaths by suicide in the U.S.
- For people ages 10–34, suicide is a leading cause of death.
- From April 2020 through April 2021, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses nationwide.
Behind each of these data points, there are people, families and communities who have been impacted. Yet, in the face of these urgent realities, there is hope. We can all help prevent suicide.
On July 16, 2022 the 988 dialing code went live. 988 is the new three-digit number to call (multiple languages), text or chat (English only) that connects people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where compassionate, accessible care and support are available for anyone experiencing mental health–related distress. The chat feature is available through the Lifeline’s website. People can use 988 if they are having thoughts of suicide, experiencing mental health or substance use crises, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
The Lifeline works! Since the Lifeline began in 2005, it has served as an invaluable resource, helping thousands of people overcome suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress every day. With the initiation of 988, these life-saving services are even easier to reach.
In preparation of 988, the federal government and partners from across many industries in the public and private sectors have worked together to provide guidance and resources to make it easier to spread the word on this resource. Notably:
- The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and its messaging task force developed the 988 Messaging Framework to provide guidance on developing 988-related messaging. It also discusses the importance of understanding how 988 works locally, following communication best practices, and tailoring 988-related messages for specific audiences.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created a one-stop shop, the 988 Partner Toolkit, at gov/988. The toolkit is intended for SAMHSA’s 988 implementation partners—including crisis call centers, state mental health programs, substance use treatment providers, behavioral health systems, and others—and provides key messages, FAQs, logo and brand guidelines, and more information about 988. SAMHSA will add social media posts, wallet cards, magnets, and other materials about 988 to the toolkit over time.
- SAMHSA has worked with partners across several critical industries to create a holistic view of readiness for the implementation of 988 for states, territories, tribes, crisis contact centers, public safety answering points (PSAPs) and behavioral health providers. Through these collaborative efforts, SAMHSA created guidance documents (e.g., “playbooks”) for these critical groups to support implementation of 988.
While this is an exciting time to reimagine how we provide crisis services in the U.S., the full vision of a transformed crisis care system with 988 at its core will not be built overnight. 988 is an important first, but not final step, in reimagining New Mexico’s behavioral health crisis system to respond to anyone in need. The New Mexico Human Services Department, Behavioral Health Services Division believes New Mexicans deserve to have mental health within reach. Building the Crisis Now Continuum of Care is about meeting people where they’re at when they need it most. Transformation of this scale will take time, and requires resources from federal, state, and local levels to prepare the crisis system to better meet these needs. That is why we must all work together to make it happen. It is important that we speak with one voice about 988 to ensure clear understanding about what it is and how it works.