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988 Provides Quick Access to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network

Individuals in need of immediate mental health assistance can now dial or text 988 or web chat at 988lifeline.org and be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.

Assistance is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The new number, which launched July 17, was designated as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline as a result of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020.

“Unlike 911, counselors will be at the other end of the Lifeline when you dial 988,” said Mara Madrigal-Weiss, SDCOE’s executive director, Student Wellness and School Culture. “They are trained to understand exactly how you’re feeling and to pair you with resources that are specifically tailored to helping you meet the moment you’re in.”

The current Lifeline phone number, 1-800-273-8255, and San Diego County’s Access and Crisis Line, 1-888-724-7240, remain accessible to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.

Middle and high schools are currently required to list the National Suicide Lifeline number on all student I.D. cards. SDCOE is encouraging schools to update badges to reflect the shorter number, display posters on campus and share materials about 9-8-8, and make sure students and families know why the number is important. 

According to the County of San Diego, during the initial rollout, calls and texts made to 988 will be connected to the local crisis call center based on the phone number the call is made from and the capabilities of the call center.

For example, calls made from San Diego County area codes, which include 619, 858, 760, and 442, will be routed directly to the Access and Crisis Line. Calls made from other area codes will be routed to the local crisis call center based on the caller’s area code. Texts to 988 will be transferred to a call center equipped for text and chat. In these cases, call center staff will work to deescalate the situation and reroute the client to the crisis call center closest to their current location for local services if needed.

The County’s Access and Crisis Line, which is confidential and free of charge, offers support and resources countywide in over 200 languages from experienced counselors on all behavioral health, mental health and substance use topics, including but not limited to: alcohol and substance use support services, crisis intervention, mobile crisis response services, mental health referrals, and suicide prevention.


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