At a 988 call center, volunteers embrace a new number while providing familiar hope

“We’re not here on earth rent-free,” said a volunteer at a suicide prevention center that responds to 988 calls. “I’m making my contribution to the rent.”

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Don smiled when he saw who was calling. He usually works the overnight shift at a suicide hotline call center outside Boston, so he knew she’d be surprised to hear his voice on a Saturday afternoon. When he said hello, the caller answered the mandatory first question before he could even ask it: No, she wasn’t feeling suicidal today. She’s been calling the crisis line regularly for years for support, so she and Don have a rapport. “What, are you having a party for 988?” she joked.

In fact, they were. Don and the other staff and volunteers showed up in person on Saturday not only to field calls, but to celebrate — complete with a 988-frosted cake — the launch of the new, shorter dial number that connects people around the country in crisis with trained mental health counselors standing by to help. 

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