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Starting Saturday, you can dial 9-8-8 for mental health crisis support

People will be able to dial the shorter number and the previous 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK) for the same services.

MINNESOTA, USA — On Saturday, July 16, a new three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, now called the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, will go into effect nationwide.

Anyone experiencing a suicidal crisis or emotional distress can call or text 9-8-8 to be connected to free and confidential emotional support. The previous 10-digit hotline (800-273-TALK) will not go away as people will be able to get the same services with both numbers now.

The lifeline, which first became active on Jan. 1, 2005, is made up of more than 200 local crisis centers from across the U.S.

Here's what happens when you call the number:

  • First, callers will hear an automated message while their call is routed to a local Lifeline network crisis center.
  • Next, you'll hear some music while your call is connected to a crisis worker.
  • A trained worker at your local center will answer the phone, listen and learn more about the problems affecting you, and provide support to get your the help you need.

While the goal of the revamped hotline is to quickly and easily connect people who are experiencing a mental health crisis to trained support, some local and national experts are worried the new line lacks adequate staffing and funding.

"When we're talking about a country filled with people who are struggling emotionally, and they need to connect with somebody, having that resource that they can connect with somebody is really important," said Dr. Dan Reidenberg, who leads nationally recognized nonprofit S.A.V.E.

"The truth is, we don't know exactly how this is all going to roll out," Reidenberg said. "We can't put the brakes on this because it's written into the law."

In Minnesota, the department of health worked with four call centers to build infrastructure ahead of this change. Callers who dial 988 from a Minnesota area code or zip code will be connected to one of the following centers:

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, there is help available from the following resources:

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