One Year Later, Debunking Misconceptions about the 988 Lifeline
The new, easy 988 number for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has been available nationwide for over a year now. Since its launch in July 2022, the 988 line has received almost 5 million contacts via calls, texts and chats and of those, nearly 1 million are from Veterans, their friends or family members who are concerned about their loved one in crisis. However, there is still some confusion on what exactly happens when someone reaches out via the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Let’s dispel some misconceptions and unpack how it works.
MISCONCEPTION: If I call 988, first responders will arrive on my doorstep.
Many think that reaching out to 988, much like dialing 911, will result in emergency services heading their way. However this is not true. Currently, less than 2% of LifeLine calls require activation of the 911 system when there is 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.
MISCONCEPTION: Wait times are long if you reach out via 988.
On average, it takes only 35 seconds for someone who is reaching out via call or text to reach a trained crisis counselor. This has drastically decreased from one year ago when the average call wait was 1 minute 20 seconds. People seeking chat services are provided with a pre-chat survey before connecting with a trained crisis counselor, who identifies the main area of concern. If there is a wait to chat with a crisis counselor, a wait-time message will appear. Once you are connected, a trained crisis counselor listens to you, works to understand how your problem is affecting you, provides support, and shares resources that may be helpful.
MISCONCEPTION: 988 isn’t available in my area.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a nationwide network of more than 200 state and local call centers. When a local crisis center is unavailable to answer or the wait becomes too long, the person will be redirected to an out-of-state call center, staffed with trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis or any other kind of emotional distress.
Just because you are not in a crisis situation does not mean you cannot call the 988 Lifeline. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. Counselors are ready and available to help through whatever situation, from anxiety and grief to job loss or PTSD.
MISCONCEPTION: You can only call 988 during business hours.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls chats or texts.
More than a year since its launch, it is clear that the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a growing source of support for anyone – from Veteran to civilian – at any time of day or night. If you or someone you know are in need, call or text the toll-free Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8 (Veterans press 1) or chat online 988lifeline.org/chat.