One of the most difficult parts about realizing you may be suicidal is feeling like you can’t talk to anyone about it.
Whether out of shame, or fear of how a loved one will react to finding out, reaching out to someone you know for help can be incredibly paralyzing. This sense of isolation can be dangerous, especially in moments of crisis.
In these discouraging and frightening moments, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is there.
What is the 988 Lifeline?
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a free resource anyone experiencing a crisis can contact for help.
The Lifeline connects people with skilled crisis counselors who listen and provide immediate support to guide you through the worst of your distress. They can also refer you to resources to help you keep yourself safe in the long term.
The Lifeline is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of its ongoing mission to reduce suicide rates nationwide.
They work with many local and government suicide prevention organizations to extend their reach everywhere in the United States.
Contacting the Lifeline is as simple as calling or texting 988.
When Should I Reach Out?
The 988 Lifeline is for anyone who is thinking about suicide, concerned for a friend or loved one, or just in need of emotional support. This means you can call, text, or chat even if you are struggling but not yet in crisis.
People call the Lifeline for any number of reasons:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Struggling with substance abuse
- Gender or sexual identity issues
- Recovering from abuse
These are just a few concerns that may prompt someone to call, but they should illustrate that you don’t need to wait until you’re in severe distress to call.
988 is a crisis service, but not an emergency service. This means if you are in emotional distress but aren’t yet in danger, it is the right time to call. 988 counselors are well-trained in methods to help you steer out of an emotional spiral and ground yourself.
If you or the person you are helping is in immediate danger of harming themselves, call 911 right away.
What Should I Expect When I Contact 988?
There are a few different ways you can contact the 988 Lifeline depending on your needs. You can call or send a text to 988, or you can chat with a counselor online at 988lifeline.org. Help is available in English or Spanish, and there are additional options for ASL speakers.
Depending on how you choose to contact the Lifeline, here is what you can expect from the process:
If you call…
You will be greeted by an automated message and a phone tree. If you are a veteran, you can press 1 to be directed to the Veteran Crisis Line. For help in Spanish, you can press 2. Otherwise, you can remain on the line and you will be placed on a brief hold while you are connected to a counselor.
If you text…
After you send a text to 988 requesting help, you will receive a short survey to let the counselor know a little about your situation. After you respond, the text line will connect you to your counselor who will instruct you further.
If you chat…
Similar to the text line, you will receive a short survey asking about your situation so your counselor knows how to help. There will be a short wait time while you are connected, and then your counselor will instruct you further.
They Will Listen and Help
Regardless of how you reach out, once you are connected to a counselor, they will listen to your problems and ask you questions to figure out the best way to help you. If needed, they may offer you steps to help you interrupt a panic attack or work your way out of a thought spiral.
Counselors may also walk you through some steps to keep yourself safe until the crisis has passed. Once they have seen to your immediate needs, they may direct you to resources online or in your community to help you find ongoing care for your mental health concerns.
The 988 Lifeline is always free and always confidential, so you never need to worry about reaching out.
Making a Difference
Suicide is on the rise and is one of the leading causes of death in our country, but it can be prevented. The 988 Lifeline is making huge strides in prevention efforts by providing people a place to turn when they feel hopeless.
Studies have shown that almost 98% of people who contact the 988 Lifeline are able to work through their crisis without needing emergency services. Having somebody to talk to can make all the difference.
Whether it’s yourself or a loved one, a suicidal crisis can be a scary thing to navigate. That’s why we at Bio-One hope this guide will help you know how to intervene to keep yourself or the people you love safe.
Part of our mission is to provide community resources. That’s why we dedicate so much of our time to projects like this. We want to create a future where we never have to answer another suicide call again.