KANSAS (KSNT) – Starting this week, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be active on all phone carriers.

The 9-8-8 number was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last fall and is almost ready for use. People can dial this number beginning on Saturday, July 16.

This means that anybody who is in need of assistance during a mental health crisis in the United States will be able to dial 9-8-8 on any phone to speak with a crisis counselor who is trained to navigate people through any mental health concern.

As a reminder, Kansans that live in area codes 785 or 620 will be required to use 10-digit dialing when making local calls. Local calls dialed with only seven digits will not go through so it is easier for persons in crisis to reach the lifeline.

How does it work?

When somebody makes a call to 9-8-8, their call is routed to a local crisis call center of which there are three in Kansas; COMCARE of Sedgwick County, Johnson County Mental Health Center, and Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ.

Each call center uses clinical practices recommended and approved by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and is accredited based on the quality of its training and services. When a person calls the lifeline, a crisis counselor will immediately begin providing service.

When do I call?

Call 9-8-8 anytime you or someone else needs immediate mental health crisis support. Do not call 9-8-8 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency such as a house fire or home invasion; call 9-1-1 instead.

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s call data, over 80% of callers are able to receive the help they need over the phone. While the lifeline’s goal is to reduce the need for in-person crisis response, call-centers will make in-person interventions available in as timely a manner as possible if needed.

How can it help?

9-8-8 can help anyone in a mental health crisis by providing compassionate emotional support, thorough risk assessment, collaborative safety planning, resource navigation, and referrals to local providers and human service agencies.

9-8-8 can also help you if someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis by providing support and guidance to navigate resources in the community and communicate with loved ones who are at risk. 

9-8-8 can also help you without getting law enforcement involved. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, over 90% of phone calls can be resolved without the need for law enforcement. In most instances when the lifeline has invoked a law enforcement response, it was at the request of the caller.

Finally, 9-8-8 will help reduce emergency department visits and the amount of time it takes for someone in a mental health crisis to get help. The crisis counselor providing care has the ability to de-escalate crises and connect people to ongoing services, helping people avoid an expensive trip to the ER.

Can I call now?

While most people will not be able to call 9-8-8 until the required activation date of July 16, some carriers including T-Mobile/Sprint and US Cellular have activated the lifeline.

However, until July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or KSPHQ’s counseling center, 785-841-2345 is available 24/7 for free and confidential help.