On July 16, 2022 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned to a three-digit number (988) for both calls and texts. A Wall Street Journal report showed that, of more than nine million calls to the hotline between 2016 and 2021, 1.5 million dropped off before they got answered. During that same time frame, call volumes increased by 92 percent.
Statistics show that about 80 percent of callers hang up if they have to wait longer than two minutes. Operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the nonprofit Vibrant Emotional Health, health officials and advocates hope the revamped system will improve the handling of the mental health crisis response across the country.
Calls first ring through to a local crisis center, based on the area code, and then forward to a national backup center, if necessary. With an infusion of federal and state funding, as well as mobile crisis teams coordinating with first responders, response times and the number of calls handled locally should improve.
SAMHSA has developed a 988 partner toolkit with fact sheets, social media shareables, posters, key messages, and more. The toolkit provides a clear understanding about the purpose of the 988 exchange and how it will work.