New ‘988’ Phone Number Provides Lifeline for Families Experiencing Mental Health Crises

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The three-digit, nationwide phone number connects people with help and support during a mental health, substance use or suicide crisis

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Tennessee is encouraging individuals experiencing mental health crises to use a valuable and potentially lifesaving resource. As easy to remember as 911, the new 988 phone number will connect callers with mental health professionals with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

988 is available 24/7 to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, substance use issue, or any other kind of emotional distress, not just suicide-related crises. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

“988 is a gamechanger for all Tennesseans,” said Jeff Fladen, Executive Director of NAMI Tennessee. “If you or anyone you know is experiencing some kind of mental distress, you can call or text 988, and you will be greeted with compassionate and accessible mental health professionals on the other end of the line. For far too long, this burden has fallen on our 911 operators and first responders, and they are finally getting some much-needed help.”

NAMI Tennessee applauds the Federal Communications Commission’s commitment to establish the 988 hotline, which began in 2020. After more than two years of advocacy and planning, the hotline opened on July 16, 2022.

With 988 now available nationwide, anyone can call or text 988 (or use online chat services at and be connected to trained crisis counselors who are part of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline network. These crisis counselors are trained to help anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or emotional distress, and they are able to resolve 80-90 percent of calls over the phone. However, individuals who are in imminent danger should call 911.

“We know that 988 is going to save countless lives,” said Allen Bartels, Board President of NAMI Tennessee and longtime behavioral health executive. “We applaud all of the partners and agencies that are working together to provide this invaluable resource to people experiencing a mental health crisis.”

When it is necessary for law enforcement to be involved, NAMI Tennessee believes it is critical for officers to be properly trained. That’s why NAMI Tennessee provides free assistance to law enforcement agencies and communities interested in establishing a Crisis Intervention Team. Crisis Intervention Teams are community-based programs that bring together first responders, mental health professionals, people living with mental illness and their families, and other partners to improve community responses to mental health crises.

NAMI Tennessee looks forward to working with policymakers and the greater community to share more about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and how Tennessee can continue to build a full system to help people experiencing a mental health, substance use or suicidal crisis and their families.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day, including six call centers in Tennessee. All contacts with the 988 Lifeline from people seeking help are confidential.

About NAMI

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness and their families. Founded in 1979, NAMI has become the nation’s voice on mental illness. With organizations and affiliates in every state, NAMI effectively provides advocacy, research, support, and education about serious mental illness. Members of NAMI include consumers, families and friends of people living with mental illnesses, mental health providers, students, educators, law enforcement, public officials, politicians, members of faith communities, and concerned citizens. For more information, please visit

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