A national suicide and crisis hotline has been serving many more people since the call-in number switched to 988 last summer.
Over the past 6 months, about 2.1 million calls, texts, and chats have come through the 988 number, CNN reported. Calls went up 48%, chats answered went up 263%, and texts increased 1,445% in December 2022 compared to December 2021, the outlet reported, citing data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the federal agency that oversees the hotline.
“We are serving more people, and we are serving them faster,” Kimberly Williams, president and chief executive of Vibrant Emotional Health, 988’s nonprofit administrator, told The New York Times . “We have made it far easier for people to reach out and access the support they need, and we are promoting help seeking behavior through this easy three-digit number.”
Response time has improved, going from around 3 minutes in 2021 to 44 seconds in December 2022, John Palmieri, a senior medical advisor at SAMHSA, told CNN. He said that the three-digit number is helping people who often were not served by the mental health care system.
“So this is truly an opportunity with 988 – as a catalytic moment – to be able to transform the crisis care system to better meet those needs in a less restrictive, more person-centered, more treatment- and recovery-oriented way,” he said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline opened in 2005 with people able to call (800) 273-8255 (TALK). On July 16, 2022, the number changed 988, which is easier to call and remember. The name also changed to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
The number of people in the United States who died by suicide increased 4% in 2021 compared to the previous year, the National Center for Health Statistics reported last September. The agency said 47,646 people died by suicide in 2021 compared to 45,979 in 2020. The number of suicides had fallen the 2 previous years.
CNN: “New 988 mental health crisis line sees ‘eye-opening’ rise in calls, texts, chats in first 6 months, data shows.”
SAMHSA: “988 Lifeline Performance Metrics.”
The New York Times: “New 988 Mental Health Crisis Hotline Sees Record Demand.”
National Center for Health Statistics: “Provisional Numbers and Rates of Suicide by Month and Demographic Characteristics: United States, 2021.”
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