It’s Official! 988 has Launched!

On July 16, 2022, the Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands increased crisis line hours  of operation to 24/7/365 and began answering 988 calls.

About 988

  • 988 is a direct three-digit phone line to trained National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call takers.
  • 988 can be used anytime, anywhere you or a loved one is in emotional distress or having suicidal thoughts.
  • Trained call takers, who are not licensed clinicians, are available to provide free, confidential emotional support to all callers. You do not need to be suicidal to call 988.
  • With an easy to remember number like 988, the Lifeline hopes to reach many more people in emotional distress and connect those to services if needed.
  • As of July 16, 2022, 988 is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

What to expect when you call 988

  • Calls will be routed to our call center based on a caller’s area code.
  • All calls will be answered by a highly trained staff or volunteer who will provide compassionate, non-judgmental support.
  • Although the number is shorter, it will still connect to the same service which has been available in Massachusetts for many years.

Frequently asked questions

Why is 988 needed?

Suicide prevention is a critical need. Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. The adoption of the new three-digit number reflects a commitment to delivering necessary intervention services. The majority of people calling the Lifeline receive the support they need at the call center level. Switching to an easy-to-remember 988 for suicide and crisis intervention will make it easier to access the emotional support they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide.

Who is 988 for?

Anyone. 988 is for anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis. It is also for an individual who is worried about a loved one and not sure how to support that person or where to get them help. Lifeline specialists are available to provide free, confidential emotional support to all callers.

Is the 1-800-273-8255 Lifeline number going away?

No. Moving to 988 does not mean the 800 number goes away.

Dialing either number will get people to the same services, no matter which number they use. In the end, 988 is an easier-to-remember way for people to access a strengthened and expanded network of crisis call centers. The same centers who answer the 800 number will answer 988.

Please note that our Samaritans call center numbers are not going away either!  We will continue to answer calls to our crisis lines and 988.

How will 988, 911, and the Emergency Services Program interact?

Increased collaboration between 988, 911, and the Emergency Services Program will provide more options for those in crisis, such as dispatching mobile crisis teams to individuals in mental health, substance use or suicidal crisis rather than police, fire, or EMS. However, when someone is at imminent risk for suicide, meaning that a suicide attempt will occur shortly or is already in progress, 911 will continue to be dispatched in keeping with current best practices.

How is 988 different from 211?

Mass211 works to connect callers to a large array of health and human service organizations and providers that are convenient to where they live. This information and referrals are available 24/7/365 in over 150 languages. Mass211 is also home to one of the local Lifeline centers, as such, Mass211 call takers are highly trained to respond to callers experiencing loneliness, isolation, desperation, and potentially suicidal ideation and can provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the very moments they need it most.