Dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
988 was designated as the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number. Here's what it means for U.S. phone users.
By Fiona McDonnell
In 2020, 1.2 million American adults attempted suicide. It is one of the top 10 leading causes of death for Americans between the ages of 10-64. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers critical services to individuals experiencing mental health crises. Before July 16, 2022, individuals had to dial 1-800-273-TALK to reach the Lifeline, but now they can simply dial or text 988 from anywhere in the U.S.
The 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a new 3-digit dialing and texting code that routes callers and texters to a crisis center staffed by trained counselors. By dialing or texting 988, you'll be connected with a counselor who will listen, work to understand what you’re experiencing, and provide support. The Lifeline is confidential, free, and available 24/7/365 to anyone.
The process of changing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number to a 3-digit dialing code took some time because it required that telephone providers and users implement some dialing and network changes.
Jump to section:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988 implementation timeline
- Important 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline changes
- What happens when you call the 988 Lifeline
- Area codes affected
- Further information
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988 implementation timeline
In recent years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has pushed for implementation of a 3-digit easy-to-remember code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (similar to dialing 911 to reach emergency services).
In July 2020, the FCC adopted rules designating 988 as a number for Americans in crisis to call to connect them with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. On October 17, 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 was signed into federal law. As a result of this legislation, providers in certain areas were required to transition to 10-digit dialing before July 16, 2022 so that the 3-digit 988 number would automatically direct callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
2019: initial recommendation made
FCC staff consulted with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the North American Numbering Council. In August 2019, the FCC released a report recommending the use of 988 as a 3-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which could previously only be reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
2020: official designation of 988 as Lifeline number
In July 2020, the FCC adopted rules designating 988 as the number for individuals in crisis to call in order to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. At this time, individuals attempting to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline still needed to dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
2021: standards finalized
In November 2021, the FCC adopted rules that would expand access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by establishing the ability to text 988 to directly reach the Lifeline as of July 16, 2020. This decision was made to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youths and individuals with disabilities. At this time, individuals attempting to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline still needed to dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
July 16, 2022: 988 code goes live
As of July 16, 2022 all phone service and text providers nationwide began directing 988 calls and texts to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number is still in service, but the FCC encourages individuals to use the easy-to-remember 3-digit 988 code.
Important 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline changes
Everyone in America can now call 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
10-digit dialing is the new standard
As part of the effort to implement the 988 dialing code to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as of 2021, individuals must dial 10 digits to place a call (area code + phone number), regardless of whether or not the call is local. Calls dialed with only 7 digits may not be completed—you must hang up and dial again using the area code.
Most people and businesses have already made the change to 10-digit dialing. All services, automatic dialing equipment, or other types of equipment that were programmed to complete calls to 7-digit local numbers have been reprogrammed to include the area code. Some examples include life safety systems, fire and burglar alarms, speed dialers, call forwarding settings, and phone contact lists. Individuals and businesses have also had to update their websites, advertising materials, contact information, ID tags, and other similar items to include an area code.
There are no other changes to dialing at this time.
All other calling protocols remain the same
Good news—the following things will not change:
- Your telephone number, including the current area code
- The price of a call, coverage area, or other rates and services
- Local calls remain local regardless of the number of digits dialed
- You will continue to dial 1+ area code + telephone number for all long-distance calls
- You can still dial just three digits to reach 711 (relay services) and 911 (emergency services)
- Any 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, or 811 services available in your community can still be reached by dialing their 3-digit codes
Individuals can now reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling the old 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number.
What happens when you call the 988 Lifeline
The Lifeline is available to anyone who is in emotional distress or thinking about suicide. You can also call if you’re worried about a friend or loved one.
"No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the Lifeline."
Calling the 988 Lifeline
If you dial 988, you’ll automatically be connected to the Lifeline. Here’s what to expect if you call 988:
- You’ll hear a recording that tells you you’ve reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- You can press “1” for the Veteran Crisis Line, “2” to speak to a Spanish-speaking counselor, or remain on the line to be routed a National Suicide Prevention crisis center.
- You’ll hear hold music while your call is connected.
- A trained counselor located at one of the 200+ crisis centers near you will answer the phone.
- The counselor will listen, work to understand what you’re experiencing, provide support, and share helpful resources.
Texting the 988 Lifeline
For some, calling 988 might not be an accessible or comfortable option. That’s why telecommunications providers also support 988 SMS texting. The provider will redirect texts to 988 to the Lifeline, where trained counselors will provide support via text. Here’s what to expect if you text 988:
- You’ll receive a short survey that provides the crisis counselor with information about your situation.
- After you complete the survey, you’ll be connected to a trained counselor located at one of 200+ crisis centers.
- The counselor will text with you in real time to understand what you’re experiencing, provide support, and share helpful resources.
Area codes affected
In order for the 3-digit 988 calling code to work, the FCC required all providers to implement mandatory 10-digit dialing in certain areas where the local exchange (the middle three digits of a 10-digit number) is 988. For example, if your phone number is 123-988-1234, anyone attempting to dial that number locally using only a 7-digit code would be automatically redirected to the Lifeline before they finished dialing.
Thus, the FCC implemented mandatory 10-digit dialing in the area codes listed below, since they include local exchanges that would interfere with the new 3-digit Lifeline calling code. Most providers have already made the switch, but those who have not must implement 10-digit dialing codes no later than July 16, 2022.
|State||Area Code||State||Area Code|
|Arkansas||501||Missouri||314, 417, 660, 816|
|Arizona||480, 520, 928||Montana||406|
|California||209, 530, 562, 626, 650, 707, 925, 949, 951||Nevada||775|
|Colorado||79, 970||New Jersey||856, 908|
|Florida||321, 352, 561, 941||New Mexico||505, 575|
|Georgia||478, 912||New York||516, 607, 716, 845, 914|
|Illinois||309, 618, 708||South Dakota||605|
|Indiana||219, 574||Tennessee||731, 865|
|Iowa||319, 515||Texas||254, 361, 409, 806, 830, 915, 940|
|Michigan||616, 810, 906, 989||Wisconsin||262, 414, 608, 920|
Telnyx worked with the North American Numbering Council’s (NANC) Numbering Administration Oversight Working Group (NAOWG) to find the best 3-digit code for the Lifeline.
If you’re a Telnyx customer, there will be no change in your dialing procedures—we’ve always supported 10-digit dialing codes. You simply dial 988 and Telnyx will direct your call or text to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
For more information, reach out to a Telnyx expert or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.