The 988 Mental Health Crisis Hotline

By Clay Smith | August 3, 2022
A woman in a dark room looking at her phone

On July 16, 2022, 988 became the new three digit easy-to-remember dialing code for the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, previously reached at 1-800-273-TALK.  Anyone struggling with a suicide, mental health, substance-use, and/or any other kind of emotional distress or crisis can call, text, or chat with a live person on the hotline at any time.

Individuals can also dial the easy to remember 988 if they are concerned for a family member or loved one in need of crisis support.

Operated by the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, callers can connect to a compassionate and well-trained crisis counselor who will listen, understand, provide support, and refer accessible resources. “We will ask how we can support you today and actively listen to folks calling in and understanding how they are feeling,” Sand Rachel Lucynski, director of crisis services at Huntsman Mental Heath Institute.

Callers will have the option to select the Veteran’s Crisis Line or the Spanish Language Crisis Line. If neither are selected the call will go to the crisis line based on the area code of the caller. For instance, a caller with area codes 435, 385, or 801 will connect to the Utah Crisis Line, regardless of location.  If after three minutes the call is unanswered it will be transferred to the National Crisis Line.

Additional services are available for the deaf, hard of hearing, and those speaking another language. The hotline is confidential, free, and no proof of insurance or citizenship is necessary.

It is important to differentiate the types of emergencies and situations in which to call 988 or a different emergency response line. 988 is for suicide, mental health, and substance-use-related crises. Anyone experiencing urgent situations requiring immediate medical services should call 911.

In particular situations where medical attention is required, a 988 call may be transferred to 911. “We determine what the current level of risk is at that time, do they need immediate help to get to a mental health facility or can we talk with them and get them connected with the proper resources,” said Lucynski.

The Utah Crisis Line received nearly 100,000 calls in fiscal year 2021. The top 5 reasons for calling included: (1) situational stress (2) harm to self (3) information (4) psychosis or grave disability concern and (5) substance use. Additionally, for over 1000 of the calls, lifesaving interventions were made.

The launch of the 988 number is a large step toward focusing more attention and services on mental health. This lets those suffering from crises know they are not alone, there are people waiting to listen and support them.