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What to Know: Demand Surges for New 988 Lifeline

September 13, 2022

The new 988 lifeline for behavioral and mental health crisis services reported a 45 percent increase in overall volume during its first full month, according to new data from the federal government.

Launched during July, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline connects people to counselors who are trained in helping people experiencing mental health-related distress. Public health officials say the easy-to-remember dialing code will be an important national resource for behavioral health.

“Our nation’s transition to 988 moves us closer to better serving the crisis care needs of people across America,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • By the numbers:  The 988 lifeline answered about 216,000 calls, 62,000 chats, and 40,000 texts during August.
  • Faster response:  The average response time to answer across contacts decreased from 2.5 minutes to 42 seconds last month, federal officials said.
  • The issue:  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the nation’s mental health crisis and highlighted the importance of supporting patients with depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, autism, and other behavioral health conditions.
  • A clear need:  The U.S. reported one death by suicide every 11 minutes during 2020, according to CDC data.
  • Quotable:  “With rising levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses—and the devastating number of overdose deaths—it is crucial that people have somewhere to turn when they’re in crisis,” said Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance use and leader of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community are dedicated to supporting behavioral health in our communities. Learn more about our advocacy to ensure all Pennsylvanians can access behavioral health services when and where they need it.

Learn more about the new 988 lifeline. Additional federal data about the launch of the program is available online.