The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, launched in the summer of 2022, has received millions of calls, texts, and online messages since its inception. However, a recent study suggests that this vital mental health resource is not fully achieving its potential.
Research published in JAMA Network Open indicates that individuals experiencing severe psychological distress were more likely to be aware of and use the 988 lifeline. Nonetheless, the study found that only a quarter of respondents expressed a strong likelihood of turning to 988 in the future when facing a mental health crisis or suicidality, for themselves or a loved one. Furthermore, less than a third of those with severe psychological distress who had previously reached out to the lifeline were very likely to utilize it again.
Michael A. Lindsey, dean of the New York University Silver School of Social Work and co-author of the study, emphasized the importance of addressing the reasons why many individuals in serious distress do not consider using 988 again. He suggested that potential solutions might include improved training, increased resources, or other measures.
The study’s findings stem from a nationally-representative survey conducted in June, where respondents’ psychological distress levels were determined through standardized questions about their emotions and experiences. Those who rated their likelihood of using the lifeline at least 6 on a 7-point scale were categorized as “very likely” to utilize it.
The 988 lifeline, which transitioned from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, officially launched in July 2022, offering a simpler dial code and a broader focus. To date, it has received approximately 6.5 million interactions, encompassing calls, texts, and chats, with over 500,000 occurring in September alone, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. CNN has sought further insights from the agency.