Healthy Tahoe: 988 suicide, crisis lifeline is 3 digits away |

Healthy Tahoe: 988 suicide, crisis lifeline is 3 digits away

Stephanie Carlson, MBA, CPS
Stephanie Carlson

Many people experience suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support and care they need. Suicide is a serious public health problem, and affects people of all ages. It is a leading cause of death in the United States, with 45,979 deaths in 2020. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicide is preventable and resources exist to support individuals, families, and communities. People experiencing a mental health crisis have a new way to reach out for help in the U.S.; they can simply call or text the numbers 9-8-8.

Modeled after 911, the new three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is designed to be a memorable and quick number that connects people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress to a trained mental health professional. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

Currently, the majority of people experiencing a mental health emergency dial 911; however, 911 isn’t equipped with comprehensive services to specifically address mental health needs. Mental health advocates hope that 988 will become a widely known, safer, and more effective alternative.

When an individual calls 988, they are routed to the closest call center based on their area code, or the nearest overflow call center, where a local trained crisis counselor who knows the individual’s community will be able to better assist them in the immediate crisis and provide follow-up resources when applicable. 

This number not just for those who are suicidal; it can be utilized for anyone experiencing mental health or substance-related distress. Services will be available by call or text to ensure anyone who wants to reach out can do so. English and Spanish speaking resources are available, and 988 has partnered with a national translation service company to provide services in more than 250 languages when needed.

Numerous studies have shown that most Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to a Lifeline crisis counselor.

Anyone could be struggling with suicide and other crises. Don’t wait to get help. Learn more about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and find more resources at

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Stephanie Carlson, MBA, CPS, is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and SafeTALK and Connect Instructor with El Dorado County. Stephanie will host a free Wellness Webinar, “Mental Health First Aid Introduction” on at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at For more information about taking care of your mental health, or for a list of area resources and crisis lines, visit

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