988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
Preparing for 988

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is switching to a three-digit number (9-8-8) on July 16, 2022. Alaska is preparing to transition to 988 but until it is active you can still call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or the Alaska Careline at 877-266-HELP.

Having an easy-to-remember number for those needing mental health support has been in the planning stages for many years. In 2020, Congress designated 988 as the new dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of local call centers, which are staffed by trained crisis counselors.

988 is more than just a number—it is a direct connection to compassionate, accessible support for anyone experiencing mental health related distress, including thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. 

Frequently Asked Questions about 988


When will Alaska switch to 988?

988 will go live in Alaska on July 16, 2022. People who call, text, or chat with 988 will be directly connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The existing Lifeline phone number (800-273-8255) will remain available.

Who should call 988?

988 can be used by anyone, any time. 988 is a direct connection to compassionate care and support for anyone who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts, who is at risk of suicide, or who is struggling with emotional distress. The Lifeline is free and confidential, with operators that treat callers with respect and listen without judgment.

If you are calling about a friend or family member who is in distress, the person on the phone will walk you through how to help and provide resources. No matter your circumstances, there is no wrong door when accessing the Lifeline.

What happens when I call 988?

988, Talk with Us
If you are in crisis or suicidal and call 988 you will talk to a highly trained and compassionate call center professional. All calls are routed to a call center where a crisis counselor will provide confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone of any age, including non-English speakers and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

You typically will be greeted by an automated system and selection of prompts including options for Spanish speakers and Veterans. A trained crisis counselor will answer the phone and assess the situation and risk to determine how to best respond in order to keep the caller safe. Calls may last for as long as the caller needs to talk through the situation. In rare cases, the crisis counselor might need to alert local law enforcement to make sure a person is safe. In many cases a follow-up call will occur within an agreed upon timeframe.

Is 988 replacing the Careline?

No. The Careline provides suicide prevention response, but it is also a number that Alaskans can call if they are feeling sad, depressed or just need someone to talk to. When launched on July 16, 2022, 988 will be available to Alaskans along with Careline (877-266-HELP), which will continue to take calls like before. 

Information about the Careline can be found on the Careline Alaska website.

Why Do We Need 988?

Alaska and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis. But the crisis is not irreversible.
  • In Alaska in 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 10-19, and for youth ages 10-14.  Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death overall for all Alaska youth and young adults, ages 15-34.
  • According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, over 1 in 3 Alaska high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row; 25% seriously considered attempting suicide; and nearly 20% attempted suicide.
  • When fully implemented, 988 will improve Alaska’s system of care that responds to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.
  • Those statistics are sobering, but there is good news:
  • Suicide is most often preventable. For every person who dies by suicide annually, there are 316 people who seriously consider suicide but do not kill themselves.
  • Over 90% of people who attempt suicide go on to live out their lives.
988 is a critical tool to help meet these challenges with evidence-based crisis intervention. The goal of 988 is to provide a simple and direct way for Alaskans to connect to resources and ultimately, to save lives.

How and when can I share messaging about 988?

Please continue to encourage use of the Lifeline’s 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK, until 988 is nationally available on July 16, 2022. This will reduce confusion and ensure all those in crisis are able to reach help, regardless of where they are located geographically or whether their phone carrier has already made the switch.

More information and messaging materials for you to share will be found on this website after July 16, 2022.

Decorative Image

Alaska’s 988 Planning Process

Suicide in Alaska is a major public health concern. Alaska has historically had some of the highest rates of suicide in the nation. The State of Alaska is engaged in several large-scale system reform efforts to improve its crisis response system, mental health and substance misuse supports, and suicide prevention.

In April 2021, the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health kicked off a statewide planning effort to create an implementation plan for 988. This work included the formation of a steering committee, project management team, a key coalition of statewide members, and numerous other workgroups and subcommittees. This planning process has been a highly collaborative effort which includes workgroups on tribal/rural communities, law enforcement, behavioral health services, technology, messaging and equity of services.

If you would like more information about 988 implementation in Alaska, please contact Leah Van Kirk at leah.vankirk@alaska.gov.

What are Suicide Warning Signs?

These are common warning signs that someone is at immediate risk of suicide. The following three should prompt you to immediately call the Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), the Careline at 877-266-HELP, or a mental health professional:
  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk—especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated and/or behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
If you or someone you know is showing these signs, call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call the Alaska Careline at 877-266-HELP.


988 Be the Lifeline

988 Resources and Toolkits

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has information about 988, partner toolkits, data, suicide prevention resources and other information about national 988 implementation.
Alaska’s 988 Coalition has also developed several resources specific to Alaska that can be shared now to help educate Alaskans about 988:
After July 16, please feel free to use these resources as you help spread the word about 988 in Alaska:

Other Suicide Prevention Resources

Help is available. If you or anyone you know has talked about or considered suicide, please seek help.
  • Call 911 if you or someone you know is actively suicidal or have attempted suicide.
  • If you are feeling suicidal, sad or depressed, or you just need someone to talk to, call the Careline at 877-266-HELP.
  • Alaska is preparing to transition to 988 but until that is active you can still call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255.
  • The Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) can be accessed by dialing 800-273-8255 then pressing 1. Chat and text options can be accessed by visiting the Veterans Crisis Line website or by texting 838255.
  • The Trevor Project is a national suicide prevention hotline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Call 866-488-7386 or visit The Trevor Project
  • For information about the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council visit the SSPC website.
  • For national information on suicide prevention, intervention, research, education and training visit the American Association of Suicidology.
  • For basic information, facts, and free tools and resources, visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Transition to 988