Though 988 is a new number, it connects callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the Lifeline) which has been around since 2005, providing access to crisis lines through more than 200 local crisis centers throughout the country. Here in Alameda County, Crisis Support Services of Alameda County (CSS) has been operating a crisis line since 1966 rooted in the value of neighbors helping neighbors. Today, CSS responds to more than 30,000 calls annually from people living or working in Alameda County. The long term vision for 988 is a more robust and connected crisis system.
Below are some frequently asked questions:
What is 988?
Starting July 16, 988 is the new number for the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), where free compassionate support is available 24/7 for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress—whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. 988 is not 911 but if a caller is experiencing a medical emergency, is in imminent danger, or in need of an immediate intervention, 988 will contact 911.
What happens when I call 988?
When calling 988, callers first hear a greeting message while their call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center (based on the caller’s area code). If you call from a 510 or 314 number, your call will be directed to Crisis Support Services of Alameda County. A trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, listen to the caller, understand how a problem is affecting them, provide support, and share resources if needed. If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, the caller will be automatically routed to a national backup crisis center. If a caller is experiencing a medical emergency, is in imminent danger, or in need of an immediate intervention, 988 will contact 911.
What if I live in Alameda County but have a different area code?
Calls to 988 are routed using the callers area code. If you want to be connected to the local center in Alameda County, you can always reach them directly on their local number 800-309-2131
How is 988 different from 911?
988 was established to improve access to the Lifeline using an easy to remember 3 digit number. 988 is distinct from the public safety purposes of 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed). 988 will refer to 911 in cases where emergency services are needed.
If I call 988, will first responders (police, fire, ambulance) be dispatched?
988 is intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner. Currently, fewer than 2% of Lifeline calls require connection to emergency services like 911. The primary goal of the Lifeline is to provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the moments they most need it. The vast majority of those seeking help from the Lifeline do not require any additional interventions at that moment. Some imminent safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or Emergency Medical Services (namely when a suicide attempt is in progress).
Is 988 available in languages other than English?
The Lifeline provides live crisis center phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide interpretation services in over 250 additional languages for people who call 988. Callers will be prompted to press 2 for Spanish.
Can I access mobile crisis teams through 988?
Mobile crisis teams refer to a team that includes a mental health professional, and other professionals such as police, fire departments, or EMT, with the goal of providing in person assessment and/or stabilization to an individual in crisis. If needed, an individual might be transported to an emergency room or crisis stabilization unit. Individuals seeking mobile crisis assistance can contact them directly. See list HERE for hours of operation and areas of coverage.
988 can refer a caller to mobile crisis teams if they require in person assistance and one is available at that time and location. 988 can also help someone navigate the mobile crisis system and support them through getting help.
What information will be collected when I call 988 and how will it be used?
People contacting 988 are not required to provide any personal data to receive services. We recognize the importance and the expectation of privacy when a person contacts 988. Any effort to obtain demographic information from those who use 988 will serve three primary purposes: 1) to save lives; 2) to connect people to ongoing supports; and 3) to evaluate system needs and performance, particularly ensuring that gaps and inequities are being addressed. All information collected is stored in accordance with laws regarding medical information privacy.
What happens if I text 988?
Currently text services are only available in English and are not routed to local centers. If you text 988, any participating Lifeline crisis center in the country could respond to your texts. Once connected, a crisis counselor will listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful. 988 text might also contact 911 if a texter is experiencing a medical emergency, is in imminent danger, or in need of an immediate intervention.
If we’re missing something, let us know by submitting your question HERE