When the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was rolled out on July 16, help became available via a three-digit telephone number: 988.
It was the reason many of us had to relearn how to access local telephone numbers; a seven-digit number became a 10-digit number. But it turns out it was well worth that tiny inconvenience because the Department of Health and Human Services reports this new lifeline may have saved more than 150,000 more lives in one month than it would have before the transition from a 10-digit number to the three-digit 988.
The department recently released data showing a 45% increase in overall volume last month compared to August 2021. That’s 152,000 more contacts that include calls, chats and texts. According to USA Today, the agency also reported a significant reduction in response times, plunging from 2.5 minutes to 42 seconds.
This is indeed good news as we hear more and more about groups that are suffering from the stress of the pandemic, inflation and other issues. Military personnel, farmers and students are among those reportedly struggling or in need of mental health service.
HHS Secretary Xavior Becerra has stated that “988 is more than a number, it’s a message: We’re there for you.”
There is more to be done. Now that we have a more effective way for people to reach out for help, we need more people who are trained to provide help.