There’s a new number to call when you’re experiencing a mental health crisis: 988.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, it can be difficult to know what to do. Before 2020, it was best to dial 911 for the help you needed. Today, you can call or text 988 at any time to access mental health services. 

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is nationwide. It provides services for those experiencing thoughts of suicide, mental health–related distress, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress.1 Once you are on the line, a crisis counselor listens to you, works to understand how your problem is affecting you, provides support, and directs you to the best resources to help you address the problem. In addition, 988 is available if you are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

The counselors at the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline are trained and will use their expertise to support callers experiencing urgent mental health crises.  Callers will be routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center based on their area code.

How Does 988 Differ From 911?

The mental health services provided when you call 988 will be different from those you will receive if you call 911.2 Dialing 988 offers easier access to crisis resources, as opposed to the public safety purposes of 911, which focuses on sending emergency medical services, the fire department, and police officers as needed. In addition, 911 responses to mental health emergencies have often led to harmful consequences for those who simply needed mental health support.3 A small number of 988 Lifeline calls require 911-related services only when there is an immediate risk to someone’s life that cannot be addressed during a 988 call.4

Additional Mental Health Resources

In addition to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, other options and resources are available:

  • Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) Access HelpLine. The 24/7 HelpLine will connect you to services provided by a DBH-certified, community-based service provider and pair you with a case manager who can help coordinate your care. You can contact the DBH Access HelpLine in two ways:
  • MyRecoveryDC. MyRecoveryDC is a District of Columbia Department of Health (DC Health) program. Many resources to help those starting recovery journeys are available at https://myrecoverydc.org, including the following:
    • Stories of people who have faced addiction and whose experiences highlight their treatment and recovery journeys
    • Information on how treatment and recovery processes work, why they work, and where to seek treatment and recovery services near you
    • Assistance finding a “peer.” Peers are people who have lived through addiction and recovery. MyRecoveryDC’s Certified DC Peers are ready to help people find their path to recovery and will support them along the way.
  • School-based services. If your child is a student at a DC public school or public charter school, they can receive counseling from a school-based mental health provider. Visit https://dbh.dc.gov/node/1500291 to find contact information for the provider assigned to your child’s school.
  • Help for veterans. When you call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, press “1” after dialing 988 to get connected directly to the Veterans Crisis Line, which serves our nation’s veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and those who support them. For texts, continue to text the Veterans Crisis Line short code: 838255. 

AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia (DC) has many mental health resources available for enrollees.

  • Behavioral health providers. You may benefit from speaking with an experienced, trained behavioral health provider if you have a problem that makes you feel overwhelmed or interferes with your daily life.
    • Visit www.amerihealthcaritasdc.com to find the Provider Directory or call Enrollee Services at 1-800-408-7511 to get help with finding a behavioral health care provider.
  • Ginger Emotional Support app. The Ginger Emotional Support app offers 24/7 support tailored to your mental health needs. Text with a coach every day for quality care for every individual and need.
    • If you are age 21 or older, download the Ginger app from the Google Play™ store or       Apple App Store® to text with an emotional support coach. (Standard messaging and data fees may apply.)
  • MindRight. MindRight is an app that specializes in providing 24/7 emotional support for teens and young adults. You can text with a coach every day and access the support you need straight from your smartphone.
    • Enrollees ages 13 to 20 can text “hello” to 886-886 and use referral code “AmeriHealth” during enrollment to start texting with a MindRight support coach. (Standard messaging and data fees may apply.)

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The information in this article is intended to help you learn more about this topic. It is not meant to take the place of speaking with your health care provider. If you have questions, talk with your health care provider. If you think you need to see your health care provider because of something you have read in this article, please contact your health care provider. Never stop or wait to get medical attention because of something you have read in this material.

Sources

  1. “988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline,” Federal Communications Commission,
    https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/988-fact-sheet.pdf 
  2. “How Is 988 Different Than 911?” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
    https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/faqs#about-988-basics 
  3. “Deaths of People with Mental Illness During Interactions with Law Enforcement” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry,
    https://perma.cc/826F-AKG8 
  4. “988 Frequently asked questions”, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/faqs 

All images are used under license for illustrative purposes only. Any individual depicted is a model

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