A year ago, the 988 crisis hotline launched, revolutionizing mental health support. This three-digit national number quickly connects individuals in crisis to professional counselors, providing timely help and reducing the risk of suicide or mental health breakdowns.
The 988 hotline, which is free, anonymous, and available 24/7, was introduced as an update to the 1-800-273-8255 number. Americans with telephone access, whether cellular or landline, can dial or text the three-digit code and receive suicide prevention and mental crisis support in their local community based on each caller’s specific needs.
According to Monica E. Oss in an article published in Open Minds, over 4.5 million calls were made to the 988 lifeline, delivered to and dispersed by independent 988 call centers during an 11-month period ending on May 31, 2023.
In 2021, suicide emerged as one of the top 9 leading causes of death for people aged 10 to 64, with an even more distressing statistic that it ranked as the second leading cause of death for individuals between 10 to 14 years old. These numbers emphasize the urgent need for effective mental health support and intervention, especially among the population that we serve at Alexander Youth Network.
Across the board, youth and adolescents are utilizing the benefits of the 988 hotline and its unique features. One of these being the text/chat function that is available as an alternative to being connected to a hotline call center. According to Heather Sanders in an article published in KFF, text and chat hotline contacts make up 1.3 million of the 4.0 million total contacts. Most individuals using these text and chat functions are under the age of 25.
According to data from the NCDHHS, about 5,000 people call 988 each month here in North Carolina. Since last July, there has been a 31% increase in North Carolinians reaching out for support. Sixty percent of callers are new callers and 40% are repeat callers looking for additional support. Data has proven the hotline to be highly effective, showing 90% of individuals with thoughts of suicide reported improvement in how they were feeling by the end of their call.
988’s impact has been profound, saving lives and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. The hotline continues to gain support and make infrastructure improvements with increased federal and state funding. As we celebrate this milestone, let’s continue advocating for mental health awareness and support. Remember, help is just a call away at 988. Together, we can create a healthier, more compassionate society.
Written by Kevin Whitlock