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988 Suicide and Crisis Line ‘Soft Launch’ July 16

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Wendy Bailey, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, shared:

Dear Community Partners,

In Mississippi, we are quickly approaching the “soft launch” of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline! As you know, there is tremendous need for it, considering:

  • In Mississippi, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death and the 3rd leading cause of death among young adults.
  • In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes.
  • For people ages 10–34, suicide is a leading cause of death.
  • From April 2020 through April 2021, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses.

Behind each of these data points, are people, families and communities who have been impacted. Yet, in the face of these urgent realities, HOPE is still there.

On July 16, 2022, Mississippi will join the rest of the United States in beginning to use the 988 dialing code. 988 will be the new three-digit number for calls (multiple languages), texts or chats (English only) that connect people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where compassionate, accessible care and support are available for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. The chat feature will be available through the Lifeline’s website. People can use 988 if they are having thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crises, or any other kind of emotional distress. Someone can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

While this is an exciting time to reimagine how we provide crisis services in the U.S. and Mississippi, the full vision of a transformed crisis care system with 988 at its core will not be built overnight. Transformation of this scale will take time, and we must all work together to make it happen. We appreciate the feedback from the community forums in May. It is important that we speak with one voice about 988 to ensure clear understanding about what it is and how it will work.

It is clear the Lifeline works! Since the Lifeline began in 2005, it has served as an invaluable resource, helping thousands of people overcome suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress every day. With the transition to 988, these life-saving services will be even easier to reach. In Mississippi, we have one of the top 10 highest answer rates for the Lifeline in the nation with more than 9,000 calls last fiscal year!

In preparation for the transition of the Lifeline to 988, the federal government and partners from across many industries in the public and private sectors are working together to provide guidance and resources to make our work a little easier.

  • The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and its messaging task force developed the 988 Messaging Framework to provide guidance on developing 988-related messaging. We encourage you to closely review these guidelines. The framework provides strategies related to the timing of messaging before and after the transition to 988 in July. It also discusses the importance of understanding how 988 works locally, following communication best practices, and tailoring 988-related messages for specific audiences.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created a one-stop shop, the 988 Partner Toolkit, at The toolkit is intended for SAMHSA’s 988 implementation partners—including crisis call centers, state mental health programs, substance use treatment providers, behavioral health systems, and others—and provides key messagesFAQslogo and brand guidelines, and more information about 988. SAMHSA will add social media posts, wallet cards, magnets, and other materials about 988 to the toolkit over time.
  • SAMHSA has worked with partners across several critical industries to create a holistic view of readiness for the implementation of 988 for states, territories, tribes, crisis contact centers, public safety answering points (PSAPs) and behavioral health providers. Through these collaborative efforts, SAMHSA created guidance documents (e.g., “playbooks”) for these critical groups to support implementation of 988.

As SAMHSA continues updating its partner toolkit and providing guidance on 988 implementation, we look forward to working with all of you to bring these critical services to our community.

As partners, I strongly encourage you to look at the resources above and help us spread a consistent message. We also have 988 resources on our website under the Get Help tab or directly at For more information or questions, please feel free to contact Katie Storr, DMH Chief of Staff, at Thank you for your continued partnership!”


Wendy D. Bailey
Executive Director
Mississippi Department of Mental Health

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