988 the new 911 for mental health crises

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline live nationwide

Graphic by ADPH

CULLMAN, Ala. – Alabama and the rest of the nation on Saturday went live with the 988 telephone number specific for mental health emergencies such as suicidal ideation or any other mental health crisis. This 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is not specific to the person in crisis; it is available to those who have friends or family experiencing an emergency as well. 

United States Department of Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra said, “If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, 988 will be there. 988 won’t be a busy signal, and 988 won’t put you on hold. You will get help.” 

The hope is that the easy to remember number will decrease the use of 911 for such emergencies as oftentimes these phone line operators do not hold the training necessary to deescalate such crises. By using the 988 number instead, calls will be answered by trained mental health professionals well versed in redirections, appropriate responses and referral of appropriate care. 

Upon calling 988, the person will speak with a trained counselor who has the ability and capacity to be prepared for the situation at hand and provide appropriate guidance. This may be completed through an assessment, referral, stabilization and/or a follow-up. The crisis interventionist also could use a mobile crisis response team if a higher level of care is warranted or send the call to emergency response personnel.  

The 988 number was signed into law in 2020 by Former President Donald Trump and was a team effort by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 988 immediately.  

For more information on the hotline, visit www.alabamapublichealth.gov/suicide/crisis-numbers.html or  https://988lifeline.org.  

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