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Why the 988 Lifeline Is a Critical Resource

crisis care-mental health-lifeline
crisis care-mental health-lifeline

The word “crisis” can mean so many different things to different people. Whatever an individual’s crisis looks like, help is at their fingertips.  

Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.

Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

We see that people are struggling with mental health and substance use conditions. With mental health in the spotlight now more than ever, I’d like to share the progress in our efforts to transform the nation’s crisis care system — starting with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

The longer-term vision for 988 is to build a robust crisis care response system across the country that links 988 Lifeline callers to community-based providers who can deliver a full range of crisis care services, if needed, like mobile crisis teams or stabilization centers, in addition to connecting callers to tools and resources that will help prevent future crisis situations.

We know building the nation’s crisis care system will take time. We have far more work to do. But I am hopeful about the forward direction our nation is heading.


Compassionate care on-call

Since transition to 988 in July 2022, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, has helped more people than ever before. Anyone experiencing emotional distress, thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or anyone caring for someone who may be struggling, now has someone to talk to 24/7. Trained crisis counselors are ready to provide compassionate care by calling, texting, or chatting.

As we are overseeing this monumental effort and working to address the gaps in crisis care, we believe the 988 Lifeline is bringing hope to people in crisis. In its first year, 988 has expanded its capacity to answer many more calls, with far faster response times. This means more people are getting the help they need, when they need it.

We’ve also seen exponential growth with text and chat, and we know this has been key in providing timely service to youth and young adults.

We’re currently operating a pilot program with specialized services for LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults who want the option of connecting with a counselor specifically focused on meeting their needs. 

And we acknowledge the importance of being able to speak in your native language, especially during a time of crisis. The 988 Lifeline currently provides live crisis calling services in English and Spanish, and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages. And this summer, we’re adding Spanish chat and text services.

Later this year, we plan to expand videophone options for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.


Lifeline investments

The significant investments of almost $1 billion from the Biden-Harris Administration have helped strengthen the 988 Lifeline capacity, resulting in many more people in crisis getting the help they need. Since launching in July 2022, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has had about 3.2 million contacts through calls, chats, and texts. 

And the transition to 988 is only the beginning. SAMHSA has a bold vision for the future of crisis care in our nation. It is built on the belief that everyone experiencing a crisis should have: Someone to talk to. Someone to respond. And a safe place for help.

We want to help the millions of people around the country get the help they need to recover and live meaningful lives.

Are you struggling or in crisis? Call or text 988 or chat with a trained crisis counselor at 

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