By Saskia Perks
July 16th marked one year since the nationwide launch of 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The lifeline allows anyone in the U.S. to call or text a trained mental health counselor for free to get support and guidance during a crisis. The service is offered 24/7 and can be easily accessed by tapping three digits.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there has been a substantial increase in overall calls made in 2023 compared to 2022. This May, the hotline had 469,023 calls routed to trained counselors. The lifeline has also seen a rise in online chat and texts in the year since its establishment. The average time it took to connect to a counselor decreased between its launch and May 2023 to 35 seconds, meaning more people could get the support they needed faster.
Kimberly Williams, CEO of the nonprofit Vibrant Emotional Health oversees 988 on a national level says that the uptick in calls is, “an indicator that more people are aware of the service and can access it.”
In March, the Lifeline began offering 24/7 support for members of the LGBTQ+ community, an increase from fall 2022 when support was provided for limited hours each day. Later this year, the Lifeline will launch an online video chat service designed to serve the deaf community or people who are hard of hearing.
Since its launch, California’s 12 call centers have responded to 280,637 contacts via calls, online chats, and text messages. California’s in-state answer rate (the percentage of calls answered by an in-state counselor) in December 2022 was 88%, one of the highest in the country, and the current volume increase for calls was 28% since May 2022 (before the launch of 988) to May 2023.
In 2022 Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Act (AB 988), Steinberg Institute-sponsored legislation, which created a sustainable funding initiative to help crisis centers and mobile response efforts, as well as the creation of an advisory board, which oversees the long-term implementation of 988.
The state hopes to have the implementation of the 988 lifelines completed by 2030, with the 988 system connecting people to mobile response teams and crisis stabilization centers when needed.
Additional 988 information and resources:
988 Lifeline: https://988lifeline.org
For members of the LGBTQ+ community: https://988lifeline.org/help-yourself/lgbtq
For Veterans, People in service, and their families: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/about/what-is-988