KANSAS (KSNW) – On Saturday, July 16, the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline officially transitioned to an easy-to-remember three-digit number, 988.

Whether they’re dealing with a mental health or substance abuse emergency or know someone who is, the new 24/7 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline will route callers to a local crisis specialist trained to address unique concerns and needs. This can include assessment, stabilization, referral, and follow-up. In addition, callers will be connected to resources available in their community, including in-person crisis services and a sub-network for Spanish speakers.

The 988 number is not only a resource for individuals suffering from a mental health crisis but also for those concerned with someone that may be suffering a crisis. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “both 988 and 911 systems will be coordinated so that callers can be referred to care that is appropriate for their situation,” noting that fewer than 2% of Lifeline calls require help from 911 emergency services.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has comprised a list of signs to look for in a mental health crisis:

  • Feeling unable to provide self-care for hygiene, changing clothes or eating appropriately
  • Isolating self from others
  • Sudden mood swings – going from happy to calm or angry after bouts of depression
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Feeling out of touch with reality
  • Violent or abusive behavior toward oneself or others
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

According to the Federal Communications Commission, the Veterans Crisis Line will also be affected by this transition to a new number. Veterans and their loved ones will also be able to dial 988 and then press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

“988 has been a long time coming and will serve as a critical resource during a crisis when every second counts. The new, shorter number will help ensure Veterans have easier access to the Veterans Crisis Line,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.  “This launch is a whole-of-government approach in line with the President’s call to prioritize mental health by strengthening access to crisis services, and preventing Veteran suicide, our top clinical priority.” 

The 988 Lifeline will be available via call, text, or chat. All phone service providers are required to connect callers who dial 988 to the Lifeline.

When you text 988, you will be asked to complete a survey to let the crisis counselor know a little about your current situation. After that, your counselor will then listen to you, offer support, then share available resources.

“This new 9-8-8 number is an important resource to the people of Kansas whether you or a loved one use it or not. I am pleased to have worked across the aisle to ensure that we sent a bipartisan bill to the Governor’s desk that avoided any increase in cell phone fees or taxes. Health care—including mental health care and substance use treatment—is a public good that all Kansans should have access to regardless of ability to pay,” said Rep. Annie Kuether, Ranking Minority on the House Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications

In January, Kansas began working on the Lifeline’s development, building its infrastructure and access. Five months later, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 19, creating behavioral health intervention teams for the state and declaring that every year on July 1, $10 million in state general funds will be appropriated to fund 988 with no access fee for Kansans.

“With 9-8-8, we are on the path to reversing our country’s mental health crisis and getting Kansans the help they need,” Kelly said. “Just as every American knows to call 911 in times of emergency, every American – and every Kansan – will soon know to call 988 when they or a loved one is facing a mental health or substance abuse crisis.”