What to Expect When You Call 988 

Reaching out for help during a mental health crisis is an act of courage, even when doing so feels challenging. It’s normal to feel apprehensive or have questions about the process, especially since there are many misconceptions about what happens when you call 988—including the misconception that police or emergency services will automatically be dispatched to your location if you call. 

Rest assured—every call to 988 is met with compassionate care and support without judgment. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 to provide free, confidential support for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, substance abuse issues, sexual assault trauma, or any other mental health emergency. Whether you or a loved one is going through a mental health crisis, is struggling with addiction, or is a victim of sexual violence, dialing or texting 988 is always an option. 

What Actually Happens When You Call 988? 

  • Your call or text will be answered swiftly—988 centers strive for quick response times, with an average wait time of just 41 seconds. Providing you with the support you need quickly is a top priority.
  • An automated greeting will ask if you need a specific support line. Press 1 for Veterans Crisis Line, 2 for Spanish language, or 3 for LGBTQ+ support. Selecting one of these options will direct you to a counselor specifically trained to provide culturally competent and informed support.
  • If you do not select an option, you’ll be routed to a local crisis center based on your area code. In North Carolina, calls go to counselors at REAL Crisis Center. Your call will be handled by someone familiar with local resources.
  • A trained, compassionate crisis counselor will answer to provide judgment-free listening, offer coping strategies, share resources, and ensure your safety and wellbeing.
  • You are in complete control over what information you feel comfortable sharing. Everything you discuss is kept fully confidential, unless specific permission is granted to share details with emergency services in high-risk situations. What you choose to disclose is up to you.
  • The crisis counselor will assess the situation to determine the right support options, guidance, and advice tailored for you and your specific needs.
  • Unless imminent risk exists, you choose the next steps. The counselor guides you through options but will not force you to make a decision or pursue anything you are uncomfortable with.
  • Counseling sessions last as long as needed. You won’t be rushed off the line or cut off after a certain amount of time. 988 counselors will stay in contact for as long or as often as would be helpful for you. There are no limits when you’re in a crisis.
  • Referrals and resources for further mental health services can be provided if you wish to pursue ongoing care. 988 serves as an accessible entry point to longer-term treatment. 

988 is here to meet you with compassionate, judgment-free support. When you’re ready to reach out, helpful, caring voices are on the other end of the line 24/7. You don’t have to handle this alone—support is available any time of day. 

Addressing Common Concerns About 988 

Will my call lead to police or emergency services showing up? 

The main focus of 988 counselors is providing compassionate support through active listening and collaborative planning whenever possible. Only a very small percentage of calls require activating emergency responders, and this is only done when risk of harm is imminent and cannot be resolved through counseling alone. 988 should be seen as a source of help, not escalation. 

Can my information be tracked if I call or text 988? 

Counselors only have access to your phone number if you call and your IP address if you text or chat. You do not have to provide any personal or location details. Your information remains completely confidential unless emergency responders are needed to prevent immediate harm, in which case only necessary details are shared. 

What if my situation isn’t serious enough to merit calling? 

988 is available for anyone experiencing emotional distress, mental health concerns, or suicidal thoughts—regardless of perceived severity. There is absolutely no minimum requirement to reach out. The counselors are there to actively listen and support you emotionally. Your wellbeing always matters, and contacting 988 is always an option. 

Can I call 988 if I’m struggling with substance abuse or addiction? 

Yes, 988 counselors are trained to handle all mental health crises, including crises related to substance abuse and addiction or withdrawal. They can offer coping strategies, connect you with recovery resources, provide referrals for treatment, and listen without judgment. 

Can I call 988 on behalf of someone else who needs help? 

Absolutely. If you have a loved one who is struggling, you can call or text 988 to get advice on how best to support them and determine next steps. The counselors can guide you in assisting your loved one in getting the help they need. 

Calling 988 provides compassionate, confidential crisis counseling when you need it most. Highly trained responders are ready to listen, offer coping strategies, provide referrals, and make sure you are safe during a trying time. 

You have the right to feel empowered to reach out for mental health support. 988 is judgment-free, easily accessible care for any crisis, big or small. Your struggles deserve to be heard. 

If you or someone you love is struggling, dial 988 to speak with caring professionals ready to help 24/7. You don’t have to face a mental health crisis alone—compassionate support is just a call away.