988. That’s the new number anyone in America can call or text for help if they feel suicidal or experience mental distress. You’re not alone. Millions of Americans think about suicide every year according to the Center for Disease Control. Reach out for help, no matter how depressed or isolated you feel.
You can also reach out to 988 if you are experiencing a substance use-related crisis. When contacting the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, a counselor will listen to what you’re going through. The counselors may talk with you about strategies to feel better and help you find additional resources.
In addition to calling and texting the hotline, you can access a browser-based chat for help on your computer. Military veterans and Spanish speakers who contact the 988 number have the option to be rerouted to a crisis line that provides specialized support. You can reach the Veterans Crisis Line directly by texting 838255.
I spoke with Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to find out what someone can expect when contacting 988 for the first time. “They can expect to be connected with a trained counselor who is compassionate and who will be there with them,” she says. “Someone who is present and speaks with them about what they’re experiencing.”
It’s OK to reach out to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are not personally experiencing mental distress but are concerned about the well-being of a friend or family member and need help deescalating a frightening situation.
Delphin-Rittmon says, “We want people to know that support is available if they’re struggling or know somebody who’s struggling. They don’t need to struggle alone; they can reach out. There’s support and trained counselors available to help.”
The old number for the federal hotline—1-800-273-8255—remains active and reroutes calls to the 988 service. Transitioning to a shorter number helps people remember the free service and know who to contact if they ever think about suicide.
During rare cases when in-person intervention is necessary, the support counselor may dispatch police. With that in mind, the 988 hotline could be a lifesaver for communities concerned about police violence and hesitant to call 911 for mental health support. After contacting 988, the vast majority of people will not have any interaction with the police.
Queer youth in distress can reach out to the Trevor Project for help. Call 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678-678, or reach out through the webchat. Due to marginalization, it’s common for young members of the LGBTQ+ community to experience mental distress, and there is no shame in reaching out for help. According to the Trevor Project’s latest survey concerning LGBTQ Youth Mental Health in America, around 45 percent of queer people ages 13 to 24 have considered suicide.
Any trans person who needs support and wants to have a conversation with someone who understands their unique experience can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. You do not need to openly identify as trans to call. This lifeline won’t contact the police or other outside services without your explicit consent.
If you are Black, Native American, neurodivergent, or a mother experiencing postpartum depression, visit the 988 hotline’s website to find more resources and outside services. Extra resources are also available on the website for suicide attempt survivors and loss survivors.
If you are no longer experiencing an immediate crisis and want to learn more about accessing mental health resources online, check out WIRED contributor Julie Charnet’s fantastic piece helping readers navigate what is often a confusing process. Looking for even more resources, especially free ones? You might be surprised at the level of mental health support available on social media, if you know where to look.