WISCONSIN— Beginning Saturday, Wisconsinites who dial 988 will be connected to a crisis counselor who can provide free help 24/7.
The new number and name are an update to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been available since 2005. However, call centers across the nation are now providing additional services.
“And while the 988 Suicide Crisis Lifeline is new, the number is new, that functionality is not,” Wisconsin Dept. Health Services Secretary-Designee Karen Timberlake explained.
Timberlake said she wants Wisconsinites to know help is just a call, text or chat away.
“Wisconsin is ready to implement this 988 number,” Timberlake said. “We have been planning for this for more than two years, working with partners who include behavioral health services providers, consumers, people with lived experience, our telecommunications companies, county human services, and many more.”
Wisconsinites who contact 988 will be routed to the Wisconsin Lifeline, which is the only National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center in the Badger State.
The Green Bay-based operation is funded by the state's health department and run by Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin.
People of all ages who need help for themselves or a loved one can access the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by:
- Calling 988 (multiple languages)
- Sending a text message to 988 (English only)
- Using the chat feature at 988lifeline.org (English only)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduced the bipartisan National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which created the 988 Lifeline.
In 2020, her legislation passed Congress and became law.
“988 is going to help us save lives,” Sen. Baldwin said. “Right now, when people are experiencing a mental health crisis, and want or need help, many have to rely on existing 10-digit numbers that they certainly don't have memorized.”
Contacts not answered by the Green Bay crisis center roll over to a national backup system. However, the goal is to have Wisconsin-based counselors on the receiving end as much as possible because they are the ones who know local communities and resources best.
“Any veteran in crisis can now call 988, press the number 1, and be connected with the veteran crisis line,” Wisconsin Dept. of Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar told reporters during a press conference Friday. “You will be connected with a real person qualified to support veterans.”
Last year, nearly 29,000 calls from Wisconsin were answered by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
That figure is expected to double since three digits are easier to remember than the previous 10-digit phone number.
The 10-digit Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to be operational after July 16 and will route calls to 988 indefinitely. Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or by chat or text to 838255.