New 988 lifeline offers mental health support to those in crisis

911 is our go-to for life-threatening emergencies.

However, for mental health crises, there is a new number to call: 9-8-8.

Monica Johnson, the Director of the Georgia Division of Behavioral Health, says the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers 24/7 call, text or chat access to a trained counselor for anyone experiencing a suicidal, substance abuse or mental health crisis or worried about someone who is.

"Everybody will be able to remember you just dial 3 numbers, a 3-digit number, and you can get to some help," Johnson says.

She says the hope is to offer rapid, easy access to a trained mental health professional.

"Many of the people get their needs met through the phone call," Johnson says. "In many cases, that is the intervention. So there needs to be somebody to be responsive that is able to manage those type of calls coming in."

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which launched nationwide in mid-July, comes at a time many people are increasingly feeling the effects of the pandemic.

"(There is) change, stress, anxiety, sadness, frustration, feeling overwhelmed, grief," Johnson says. "I don't know anybody that has not had one of those feelings and emotions in a different way than they normally would have in the last 3 years."

By calling 988 or using the MyGCAL app, you can connect instantly with a mental health professional or trained peer counselor, who can connect you with mental health resources in your area.

In the first 3 months since the lifeline launched, Johnson says, they have seen a small uptick in calls from people in rural Georgia, men and younger people, who may be drawn by the text and chat options.

Johnson says, you may not think you need to know about 988.

I don't want anybody to think that this is not about them, that they are immune to ever maybe having to call 988," Johnson says. "Most people are just one incident, one loss, or one life-changing event from needing a little bit more support for their mental health wellness than we may like to think we are."

You can read more about 988 at