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 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline  Children's Wisconsin

988 Suicide & Crisis Helpline: Help 24 hours a day, seven days a week

I hope by now you’ve heard the great news that the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is up and running. We, in the mental health and wellness profession along with countless others, have been advocating for this for a long time. This quick, three-digit phone and text number will help the many people who are in crisis every day. 

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. The Lifeline is comprised of a national network of more than 200 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.

Is 988 new? 

While the three-digit number is new, the Lifeline is not. Dialing or texting 988 will bring people to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline that was formerly 1-800-273-TALK (8255) crisis line. This 1-800 number will continue indefinitely but 988 is a little easier to remember. Think of it as how we used to have to look up the police or fire department number for emergencies before 911 was available nationally. 

Who can call/text 988? 

Anyone! Anyone in crisis whether personally or for a loved one. There are options for Spanish-speaking people and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Why is this service important? 

We are experiencing a mental health crisis in the United States. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people age 10-14 and 25-34. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every year in the United States, more people die by suicide than in car accidents.

The former National Suicide and Prevention Lifeline first took calls in 2005. Between 2005 and 2021, the service received more than 23 million calls, with 2021 seeing the most calls in its existence. 

In Wisconsin alone, the need is great. In 2020, of the 2.4 million calls Lifeline received nationally, more than 33,000 were from Wisconsin. 

When I call 988, who will I talk to? 

The goal is for people who use the Lifeline to talk to a local crisis center. If that isn’t available due to call volume and staffing, the call will be routed to the national service who will know about local resources for follow-up care. 

Does it cost to call or text 988? 

Outside of any fees for texting, the service is free of charge. 

How Children’s Wisconsin helps

Children’s Wisconsin recognizes that mental wellness is a key component to overall health and we have several key programs and initiatives designed to reduce barriers to care and get kids and teens the help they need. Our Shine Through website has many has resources and tips to help parents have these important, and often difficult, conversations with their children.

Children’s Wisconsin has integrated behavioral health consultants in our primary care offices to help support kids with mental health concerns as well as provide preventative care.

Additionally, the new Children’s Wisconsin Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic provides same-day care for children and teens (ages 5-18) experiencing urgent mental health issues. The clinic is open seven days a week from 3-9:30 p.m. Our staff of therapists and social workers is available to:

  • Evaluate to determine any immediate safety concerns.

  • Provide brief intervention through temporary, on-site counseling and coping tips.

  • Coordinate care with the child’s existing care team (pediatrician, school or other providers) to ensure everyone is aware of the child’s needs.

  • Refer to helpful resources following the child’s clinic visit, including follow-up care, if needed.

If you or a loved one are in crisis, you don’t have to face it alone. There are resources such as 988, your child’s primary care office at Children’s Wisconsin, Shine Through and the Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic to support you and your loved ones.