On July 16, 2023, the crisis hotline 988 celebrated its one-year anniversary. The hotline replaced 911 for mental health emergencies and routes callers to mental health resources within their community. 988 is accessible by phone, text message, and webchat.
In the year since the launch of 988, there has been a significant increase in lives supported and improved access to care. Still, 988 can be improved to reach a greater portion of the population and connect more efficiently with existing mental health resources and infrastructure. In this article, we’ll round up some of the significant milestones 988 has hit, and discuss areas where the service can improve moving forward.
988 Supports Over 5 Million Contacts
Since launch, 988 has fielded over 5 million contacts, which is 2 million higher than the year before when it was known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 665,000 contacts to 988 were via text message, up 1135% compared to the year prior. The text capability is particularly valuable as some people in crisis may not feel safe calling if they are in a public setting or their abuser is in the same room. Being able to reach crisis professionals via call, text, or webchat is critical to the success and growth of the hotline. In the coming months, 988 plans to add a video chat option to better serve deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
“Through 988, our message to Americans in crisis is clear: support is here,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Barcera in a statement marking the one-year anniversary. “. . . Nearly 5 million calls, texts, and chats have been answered over the past year—saving countless lives. I have traveled all over the country and talked with young people who got the help they needed, when they needed it most. For them, 988 is more than just a number—it’s a person to listen, a person to care.”
Only 18% of American Have Heard of 988
Although 988 has made significant strides in expanding access to crisis support, there is still room for growth. According to a survey conducted in September 2023, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), 82% of Americans are not familiar with 988. Marginalized groups in particular are hesitant to call the hotline, fearing the police may become involved. Axios reports that workforce shortages, lack of long-term 988 funding from states, and limited access to mental health care are all barriers that could potentially inhibit the growth of 988. NAMI chief advocacy officer Hannah Wesolowski told Axios, “If we slow down, it would have disastrous implications for people’s ability to access the crisis resources that they need.”
NeuroFlow Addresses Access to Care and Suicide Prevention
NeuroFlow addresses the issues noted above by providing mental health resources to individuals through their providers or health plans before they reach crisis. 45% of individuals who died by suicide had contact with their provider within one month of suicide. That’s why it’s critical to create systems where providers can screen, identify, and address the needs of at-risk individuals earlier.
Through a combination of self-care resources and regular, remote screenings, NeuroFlow can intervene with targeted resources before individuals reach crisis. For individuals whose assessments or written content indicates a risk for self-harm or suicide, NeuroFlow’s Response Services team contacts individuals directly via phone and e-mail to further screen for suicidal ideation and, if needed, refer individuals to behavioral health professionals.
“988 has been a success by most measures; it’s easy and accessible, and more people understand what it is,” said Matt Miclette, MPH, MS, RN, Head of Clinical Operations at NeuroFlow. “Crisis intervention is important, but alone it’s not enough to address the mental health crisis. Providers must move upstream. Technology like AI can help identify at-risk individuals earlier, using patient generated information and claims data. With these insights providers can intervene earlier and prevent crises before they happen.”
Learn more about NeuroFlow’s unique approach to suicide prevention.