988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Sees Boost in First Months

January 16, 2023

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline received over 1.7 million calls, texts and chats in its first five months, a near-half million increase over the old 10-digit suicide prevention line during the same period the previous year.

The 988 number launched in mid-July 2022. It’s modeled on the 911 system—meant to be quick and memorable—connecting people who are suicidal or in any other mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Harris, paid a visit to the 988 call center at the Community Crisis Services Center in Hyattsville, MD in December to raise awareness of the service. His visit occurred just ahead of the holidays and following the tragic suicide of Stephen “tWitch” Boss, the well-known dancer and former DJ and co-executive producer for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

The 988 hotline’s funding, some $130 million in grants, comes from the bipartisan gun control legislation that President Biden signed into law in June.

Kimberly Williams, CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health, a non-profit that oversees the national 988 network of nearly 200 crisis centers nationwide credited the uptick in the volume of calls to more people being aware of the service and being able to access it. 

According to federal data the 988 Lifeline responded to 154,585 more calls, text messages and chats in November 2022 than the same month the year before. Further, the number of abandoned calls fell from 18% in November 2021 to 12% in November 2022.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. while data from Mental Health America shows that the number of adults who seriously thought about attempting suicide in the past year has increased from 8.8 million reports in 2015 to 11.4 million in 2022.

“We are always telling people suicide is preventable but…it’s a hard struggle,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Event Manager Carmen Martinez said in December.

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