988 has been designated as the new, nationwide, three-digit phone number that will connect U.S.-based callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to talk with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors, starting July 16. The lifeline is a national network that provides free, confidential support to those in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
The new rules, adopted by the Federal Communications Commission two years ago, apply to all telecommunications carriers as well as all interconnected and one-way Voice over Internet Protocol service providers. The rules provided for a two-year transition, reflecting the challenges of this nationwide effort, including the need for widespread phone network changes and providing time for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to prepare for the expected increase in the volume of calls.
Under these rules, calls to 988 will be directed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, which will remain operational during the 988 transition and after it is completed.
On Nov. 18, 2021, the FCC approved a second order to expand access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by establishing the ability to text 988 to directly reach the lifeline to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities. The order requires text providers to support text messaging to 988 by July 16.
The AVMA offers well-being resources for veterinarians. Among these resources are free online QPR suicide prevention training designed to teach laypeople the warning signs of a suicide crisis and respond following three steps: question, persuade, and refer someone who may be suicidal.