988 - Frequently Asked Questions

Will the 1 (800) 273-8255 go away when the switch is made to 988?

Moving to 988 does not mean the 1 (800) 273-8255 number goes away. After July 16, 2022, using either number will get people to the same services. In the end, 988 is an easier-to-remember way to access a strengthened and expanded network of crisis call centers.

Is 988 only for suicide-related crises?

The Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls, chats or texts from anyone who needs support for suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crisis, and connects those in need with trained crisis counselors. Beginning July 16, 2022, this will be true for those who access the Lifeline via the new 988 dialing code. 

The 988 call line will connect people to more than just a “suicide” line, it will be a service for anyone who is suicidal or experiencing a mental health- and/or substance use-related crisis. It’s important we don’t call this only a “suicide” lifeline, but instead refer to it as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

What happens when I call 988?

Starting July 16, 2022, when calling 988, you will first hear a greeting message while your call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center (based on the caller’s area code). FirstLink serves as North Dakota’s Lifeline network crisis center. A trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, and listen to you. provide support, and share resources if needed. If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, you will be automatically routed to a national backup crisis center.

If I call 988, will first responders be automatically dispatched?

The primary goal of the Lifeline is to provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the moments they most need it and in a manner that is person-centered.

Currently, a small percentage of Lifeline calls require activation of the 911 system when there is an imminent risk to someone’s life that cannot be reduced during the Lifeline call. In these cases, the crisis counselor shares information with 911 that is crucial to saving the caller’s life.

How will 988 and 911 complement one another?

The 988 and 911 systems will need to be closely coordinated to seamlessly allow the referral of callers for appropriate care or response that addresses the unique circumstances present with each crisis encounter. SAMHSA is actively engaged with 911 counterparts at the federal, state, and local levels to plan for smooth coordination between the two services.

How is 988 different than 211 in my state?

In most states, the 211 system provides health and social service assistance information and referrals. At the same time, 988 crisis counselors will provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the very moments they need it most. While generally being different in scope, these systems need to be aligned, and in many cases, local Lifeline centers also respond to 211 contacts. We envision that 988 crisis centers will need to continue to coordinate with 211 and other warmlines. This will help ensure an all-inclusive approach regardless of which number a person may use first.

What languages will 988 services be available in?

The Lifeline currently provides live crisis center calling services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages. Text and chat are currently available in English only.