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Call 988 for mental health crisis support

By The Health News Team | Updated February 2, 2023
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Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline was created a year ago in hopes of changing that statistic. Since its launch, it has received nearly 5 million calls.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, now known as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, has taken calls from people experiencing emotional distress or suicidal thoughts and seeking support for over 17 years. Now reachable by calling or texting just three numbers — 988 — from anywhere in the country, or using a chat option available via its website, the lifeline is seeing a surge in contact volume. What's more, text and chat service in Spanish is now available.

According the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which oversees the line, the 988 Lifeline answered almost 160,000 more calls, texts and chats in May 2023 than in May 2022 and significantly improved how quickly the contacts were answered. The average speed to answer contacts decreased from 140 seconds to 35 seconds, SAMHSA reports. Additionally, calls answered increased by 45%, chats answered increased by 52% and texts answered increased by 938%.

“When getting help becomes easier and more accessible, we start taking away the barriers to receiving care,” says Veronica Campbell, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. “988 is modeled after 911 by being a memorable and quick number that connects you to a trained mental health professional rather than emergency services.”

About 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. People who call, text or chat with 988 are quickly connected to a trained counselor. The counselor works to understand what the individual is experiencing, provides support, helps the caller identify ways to feel better, and connects them with needed help and resources.

At the end of 2022, the 988 Lifeline launched a pilot program in partnership with The Trevor Project, an advocacy organization with a mission to end suicide among LGBTQ+ young people. The program was highly successful and has been expanded, allowing The Trevor Project to continue providing access to specialized services for LGBTQ+ people ages 13 and 24 who call, text or chat the lifeline. LGBTQ+ youth who contact the 988 Lifeline can be connected with a specially trained LGBTQ-competent counselor.

“Helping someone find a pathway to healing and recovery and reducing suicide are the main goals of the dedicated mental health professionals at 988,” Campbell says. “This approach is tailored to quickly deescalate a mental health crisis or prevent crisis from occurring by immediately responding with support and resources to cope with whatever it is that someone is struggling with.”

In San Diego, calls and texts made to 988 are connected to the county’s Access and Crisis Line (ACL), which can also be reached by calling 1-888-724-7240 or via The ACL offers support and resources in over 200 languages from experienced counselors on all behavioral health, mental health and substance use topics, including:

  • Alcohol and substance use support services

  • Crisis intervention

  • Mobile crisis response services

  • Mental health referrals

  • Suicide prevention

According to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, crises are commonly deescalated during 988 calls, with less than 2% of calls requiring emergency services. Additionally, studies of calls to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline show that after speaking with a counselor, the majority of callers are significantly more likely to feel:

  • Less depressed

  • Less suicidal

  • Less overwhelmed

  • More hopeful

“Many people who are struggling with their mental health or thinking about suicide often feel alone, but talking to someone can help,” Campbell says. “Know that you are not alone, many people you know — including your family, friends and colleagues — have struggled before. This call can offer you support, encouragement and validation, which are often what many of us need in a vulnerable time.”

Additional mental health resources

The previous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, 1-800-273-8255, remains available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis. An additional chat feature is also available via

Additionally, mental health care for people of all ages in San Diego is available at Sharp. Expert medical teams include affiliated doctors and psychiatrists, experienced nurses, licensed therapists and certified counselors to treat anxiety, depression, substance use, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and more.

However, if you or a loved one are in crisis or at immediate risk of self-harm, it is important to go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

Learn about mental health care at Sharp; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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