About 988

About 988

What is 988?

On July 16, 2022, 988 became the national three-digit phone number for all mental health, substance use, and suicide crises. 988 calls are routed to the The Helpline Center, South Dakota’s only 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline center, 988 is a free, confidential service that will offer 24/7 access to trained crisis specialists.

When someone calls, chats, or texts 988, they will be connected to a crisis specialist who is trained and prepared to deliver support to anyone experiencing a crisis. Because a crisis is defined by the person or family experiencing it, the crisis specialist will engage with the person to understand and address the person’s unique concerns and needs. The intervention may include assessment, stabilization, referral, and follow-up for individuals at high risk for suicide and/or poor mental health outcomes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is 988?

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. 

What is the difference between 988, 911, and 211?

When should you call 988?

Mental health crisis calls may result in potentially dangerous and traumatizing outcomes when police are called, especially in historically marginalized communities. 988 is a mental health crisis number and calls are handled by trained counselors to assist people in emotional distress or suicide crisis.  Anyone in need of crisis support for themselves or someone else should call 988.

988 is an opportunity to transform our country’s behavioral health crisis system to respond to anyone in need. The Lifeline accepts calls from anyone who is suicidal or in emotional distress, including substance use crisis.

How will 988 and 911 interact?

988 is designed to collaborate with 911 centers to assist with mental health calls. The Helpline Center will be working with each PSAP in the state to create a partnership between 988 and 911. 911 transfer calls to 988 such as callers in an emotional crisis or callers expressing mental health needs that are not suicidal. 911 will also transfer calls to 988 when callers are suicidal and alert but not requiring dispatch. 988 will work with 911 for calls requiring an emergency medical response or law enforcement response.

Does 988 trace the location of people who call, text, or chat?” 

No, geolocation services are not enabled for 988. The Lifeline currently automatically routes calls by area code to the nearest crisis center based on the area code of the caller’s phone number. Call routing and geolocation are related location issues but involve different technical, legal, privacy, and cost considerations. As part of the 2020 Designation Act, the Federal Communications Commission submitted a report examining the feasibility and cost of including an automatic dispatchable location that would be conveyed with a 988 call. Within that report, the FCC recommended that Congress require that a multi-stakeholder group be convened to further examine the key issues and collaborate on potential next steps. The FCC held a 988 Geolocation Forum in May 2022 and the agency is actively analyzing the information gathered during that forum, including whether potential routing improvements could help callers to 988 connect to the regional call centers where they are located without sharing specific geolocation information.

What happens when I chat via 988?

Chat is available in both English and Spanish through the 988 Lifeline’s website at  988lifeline.org/chat. People seeking chat services are provided a pre-chat survey before connecting with a 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. If demand is high, people can access the Lifeline’s helpful resources while waiting. Once you are connected, a crisis counselor listens to you, works to understand how your problem is affecting you, provides support, and shares resources that may be helpful.

What happens when I text 988?

When someone texts to 988, they are responded to by a group of Lifeline crisis centers that answer both chats and texts. This service is currently expanding to increase local and state-level response. 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. Texting is available in both English and Spanish.

Does 988 accommodate those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or blind?

Callers who are Deaf, Blind, Disabled, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened can directly dial 988 on a videophone or click the “ASL Now” button on 988lifeline.org to connect with trained crisis counselors who are trained in working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Additional Resources