☎ Three-digit suicide prevention lifeline celebrates one year in existence

☎ 988 has been successful in New Jersey over the past year

☎ More needs to be done to make residents aware of the state's lifeline number

America’s new three-digit suicide prevention lifeline, 988, observed its first year of operation last month, and it’s been quite successful in New Jersey.

988 is the three-digit number that people can use to call if they are experiencing a psychiatric crisis.

The number is also for individuals who have thoughts of hurting themselves, who have feelings of despair and hopelessness, who have concerns about a loved one, or it can be used for someone who is experiencing a crisis related to addiction.

When individuals call 988, they will be connected to a live, trained counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The counselor will provide them with telephonic support, and if the person is interested, they will also be provided with referrals, as well.

Another thing the call center will do is that when a person calls, a counselor will ask if they can have permission to conduct a follow-up call with that person. During the follow-up, the counselor will check on them, and offer them other services that can help with their recovery.

Valerie Mielke, the assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, part of the State Department of Human Services, said she’s happy to know that there has been an increase in calls with the 988 number and that more individuals in New Jersey are getting the help that they need.


During the past year of 988’s existence, calls climbed 22% in New Jersey to just over 57,000 calls, Mielke said. That’s about four to five thousand calls per month, she added.

While 988 is gaining attention, more needs to be done to make New Jerseyans aware of this life-saving helpline. Mielke said the state is embarking on a media campaign to create awareness of 988.

“We will look to market 988 through various mediums such as social media. There will be some quick snippets regarding 988 and what it’s about and its availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Mielke.

There will also be billboards, and posters in public areas such as train and bus stations, plus radio ads, to create greater awareness of 988.

The ads will be available in both English and Spanish, she said.

The three-digit number went into effect in July 2022 as an alternative to the 10-digit helpline number to make it easier for people to remember in times of crisis.

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