New 988 Phone Number for Suicide Prevention Lifeline To Begin Operation

LINCOLN, NE (July 13, 2022) – State Officials announced today that Nebraska’s new 988 phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will begin operation this weekend.  After two years of planning and preparation, the new three-digit suicide prevention line—988—will go live on Saturday, July 16.  Callers will be able to use 988 around the clock to make a direct connection to trained crisis counselors.  All calls are free and confidential.

“The new 988 phone number provides a 24/7 connection to trained, compassionate counselors for anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide,” said Gov. Ricketts.  “It’s imperative that we look after the mental well-being of our loved ones and provide immediate help to those who need it.  The State has been proactive in ensuring that Nebraskans have access to mental health resources.  As we launch 988, we’re also adding capacity to mental health facilities and investing in the education of additional behavioral healthcare providers.”

In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the lead federal agency, in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Veterans Affairs and Vibrant Health.

The Lifeline, 988, is an easy-to-remember number that provides direct access to compassionate care and support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress or thoughts of suicide.  988 will provide easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire, and police as needed).  Callers to 911 talk with a person who answers the phone.  With 988, the caller experience will be different.  Lifeline centers utilize the Vibrant Emotional Health Lifeline technology, which means callers to 988 will hear some automated prompts before hearing a counselor’s voice.

Moving to 988 does not mean the existing suicide prevention lifeline (1-800-273-8255) will go away.  After July 16, 2022, both it and 988 will get callers to the same services.

“We know that it can be hard to start conversations about mental health, but they are very important conversations and could save a life,” said Sheri Dawson, Behavioral Health Director for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.  “It is never too early to talk about mental health, and we don’t want the conversation to be too late.  Use your eyes, ears, heart, and mind to reach out and offer help if someone is suicidal.  If you’re unsure if someone is thinking of ending his/her life, ask, or now you can say, ‘let’s call 988 and talk to someone.’  People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.”

Dawson thanked the State’s partners who planned tirelessly for the implementation of 988 and play an active role in behavioral healthcare across Nebraska.

“I want to thank the amazing Nebraskans who collaborated in planning for 988 implementations,” she said.  “We are all grateful to those partners who provide behavioral health and 24/7 crisis services every day to individuals with behavioral health challenges.  I want to thank our Regions, providers, and behavioral health system partners for their continued partnership in serving Nebraskans.  We asked for 988 stakeholder recommendations and we listened to stakeholder feedback, our 988 workgroups, and 988 Advisory Committee.  Nebraska is fortunate to have such dedicated partners.”

Need to talk or get immediate help in a crisis?  Help is available.  If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 para Español
    • As of July 16, 2022, simply dial 988
  • Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Hotline: In Nebraska, dial 211
  • Your faith-based leader, your healthcare professional, or student health center on campus
  • Nebraska Family Helpline – Any question, any time: (888) 866-8660
  • Rural Response Hotline: (800) 464-0258
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (oprime dos para Español) or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453)
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)