Help for suicidal thoughts or other mental health emergencies is now available by dialing or texting 988, the nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline that went live today.
It’s a number that routes callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While some areas in the nation have already been connected to 988, this dialing code was made available to everyone across the United States starting at midnight, July 16.
Instead of a dispatcher sending police, firefighters, or paramedics, 988 connects callers with trained mental health counselors.
In 2020, Congress designated 988 as the new dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of local call centers, staffed by trained crisis counselors.
988 provides support for anyone experiencing mental health related distress, including thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, according to the State of Alaska’s information website. The Lifeline is billed as free and confidential, with operators who treat callers with respect and listen without judgment.
If you are calling about a friend or family member who is in distress, the person on the 988 line will walk you through how to help and provide resources.
Alaska and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the Department of Health, which cites these statistics:
- In Alaska in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 10-19, and for youth ages 10-14. Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death overall for all Alaska youth and young adults, ages 15-34.
- According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, over 1 in 3 Alaska high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row; 25% seriously considered attempting suicide; and nearly 20% attempted suicide.
- Suicide is most often preventable. For every person who dies by suicide annually, there are 316 people who seriously consider suicide but do not kill themselves.
- Over 90% of people who attempt suicide go on to live out their lives.