National Hotline for Mental Health Crises and Suicide Prevention | NAMI

National Hotline For Mental Health Crises And Suicide Prevention

Where We Stand

NAMI believes that public policies and practices should promote access to care for people with mental health conditions. NAMI supports a nation-wide toll-free hotline that can adequately respond to people experiencing mental health crises.

Why We Care

Mental health crises and suicides can be devastating for individuals, families, and communities. When someone experiences a mental health crisis and doesn’t receive the care they need, they can end up in emergency rooms, on the streets, involved in the criminal justice system, or in the worst case, they could lose their life. A 24/7 crisis hotline can be the first line of defense in preventing these tragedies and an essential part of any continuum of care for mental health crises.

Since 2004, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) has been accessible nationwide by dialing 800-273-TALK (8255). However, a 10-digit number is not always easy to remember during a crisis, and every year the demand for the Lifeline’s services increases. To support those in crisis, access to the Lifeline should be simplified and resources allocated to bring this life-saving resource to a much larger scale.

To date, both Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have taken steps to support this effort. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (Public Law # 116-172) designates 9-8-8 as the national number for suicide prevention and mental health crises and permits states to impose fees to support local operations of 9-8-8. The FCC has approved an implementation plan that would make 9-8-8 operational nationwide by July 2022.

Simplifying access and increasing resources is just one part of supporting people in crisis who call the Lifeline. To ensure that people can be connected to the care they need when they dial 9-8-8, we need to create a readily accessible crisis response system.

How We Talk About It

  • When it comes to mental health crises, one call can save a life, which is why we need to make that call as quick and simple as possible.
  • Just as 9-1-1 is universally known for use during emergencies, like a heart attack or car accident, we need 9-8-8 for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
  • When people in crisis do not receive a mental health response, we see tragic outcomes. They may engage with law enforcement rather than mental health professionals, go to an emergency room where they wait hours — or even days — to get mental health care, or lose their lives to suicide because help wasn’t fast enough.
  • We need to ensure that everyone who experiences a mental health crisis, no matter where they live, receives a mental health response.
  • To achieve that, we need an easy-to-access crisis response system that is a core part of our national strategy for mental health care and suicide prevention.
  • The creation of 9-8-8, a 24/7, 3-digit crisis hotline, is the gateway to any crisis system and is a core service that should be available in every community.
  • The 3-digit crisis hotline should be provided with sufficient resources to ensure that no one goes without help if they need it. And it should easily connect people to services and supports in their community.
  • Local communities must ensure that crisis services are available to respond when people need in-person help and intensive services in the community.
  • Implementing a nationwide, 3-digit crisis hotline and connecting people to timely and effective care will help ensure that people in crisis receive the help they need, when they need it.

What We’ve Done

  • NAMI Policy Position on Crisis Response
  • NAMI report Divert to What? Community Services that Enhance Diversion
  • NAMI news article on our work to further the development of a 3-digit crisis line number
  • NAMI CEO statement on introduction of 988 legislation
  • NAMI statement on passage of S. 2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act
  • NAMI webinar on how families can prepare for a mental health crisis

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).