Mental health crisis helpline sees a spike in usage

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline received more than 1.7 million calls, texts, and chats in its first five months, NPR reports. The emergency number launched in July 2022 and aims to connect people struggling with suicidal crisis or other mental health issues with trained mental health professionals.

The 988 number, which is modeled on the 911 system, replaces the old 10-digit Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 1.7 million contacts represent an increase of nearly half a million over the same period the year prior with the old lifeline number. In fact, according to federal data, the 988 number responded to 150,000 more contacts in November 2022 than in November 2021 (with the old number). The number of abandoned calls in November 2022 also decreased to 12% from 18% the previous November. Average wait times to speak to a counselor are also improving, from nearly three minutes in November 2021 to 36 seconds in November 2022.

In addition to nearly $1 billion in federal funding, several states have passed legislation to fund the 988 number. Five states fund 988 with a small fee added to people's cell phone bills like the 911 fee, and 16 states have established trust funds to permanently fund 988 and other related crisis services.

Source: NPR

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