Trenton, NJ – By Eva Loayza-Mcbride
Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman today announced that New Jerseyans will be able to use the new, three-digit number 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting July 16. The 988 number will be available for anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide or a mental health or substance use crisis.
988 was designated as the new three-digit dialing code for the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2020 by the Federal Communications Commission. To support 988, the budget signed by Governor Murphy includes nearly $29 million for call line infrastructure and services that some callers may be connected to after they call. The aim of 988 is to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets the country’s growing suicide and mental health related crisis care needs.
“We are excited for the rollout of 988 in NJ and nationwide. Its launch marks an important milestone in timely access to mental health services and we believe 988 can help save lives,” said Commissioner Adelman. “988 is more than just an easy-to-remember number. It will be a direct connection to accessible and compassionate support and resources, available 24/7 to anyone experiencing psychiatric or emotional distress or those worried about a loved one. Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis will only need to remember these three numbers to reach trained counselors who can help.”
988 will be available for call, text, or chat on July 16 for those experiencing a mental health-related or suicidal crisis, or those looking to help a loved one through a crisis. The existing Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255, will also continue to be available.
988 will provide easier access to the Lifeline network – a national network of over 200 local, independent crisis centers equipped to help people in mental health related distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis. Some callers may be connected to services or other resource lines depending on their needs.
988, as the current Lifeline number does now, will provide live crisis center calling services in English and Spanish and use Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages. At this time, the text and chat features are available in English only. The Lifeline provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress via call, text or chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the U.S.
988 is distinct from 911, which focuses on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police.
“The transition to 988 will help expand access to critical mental health services and ensure we are connecting individuals in distress with the most adequate assistance,” said Valerie Mielke, Assistant Commissioner for the Department’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “We know the Lifeline makes a difference, and with an easier number to call, text or chat, we hope more people in need of support for themselves or loved ones will reach out for help.”
Numerous studies have shown that most Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to a Lifeline crisis counselor.
For people aged 10 – 34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death. In 2020 alone, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes. Additionally, from April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses. In New Jersey, 778 lives were lost to suicide and 239,000 adults had thoughts of suicide in the last year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Per NAMI, more than 1 million adults in New Jersey have a mental health condition, while 72,000 New Jerseyans age 12-17 have depression. According to NAMI, 61.4 percent of New Jerseyans aged 12-17 who experience depression did not receive any care in the last year.
“These stats represent real people in need of help. Just like 911 is widely known, we hope 988 will become ubiquitous as the number to call when someone is experiencing severe emotional or mental distress,” added Adelman.
For more information about 988, visit here