March 5, 2024

Centenary of the National Mental Health Crisis Line 988

988 was implemented in July 2022 as the new national suicide crisis line. It has since emerged as a reliable resource available 24/7.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The National Mental Health Crisis Line, 9-8-8, is celebrating its one year anniversary. Just as Americans can connect to emergency services through a three-digit number, they can do the same in a mental health emergency.

“988 is the nation and the state and our community saying, ‘It’s okay to struggle with your mental health, and when you do there is help and this is how you get there,'” Lines for Life said CEO Dwight Holton.

Since its launch in July 2022, it has helped millions of Americans by connecting them with trained counselors who provide real help in times of crisis.

Since its implementation, the three-digit helpline has answered almost 5 million contacts. Compared to the previous 12 months, there was a 1,135% increase in help texts, a 141% increase in chats, and a 46% increase in calls, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re reaching a lot more people than before,” Holton said.

Holton is CEO Lines for Lifeis one of two local call centers Oregonians are connected to when they call 988.

“Our volume is up somewhere between 35-40%, which is great, right? If you have sales or run a small business or anything like that you know that 35% increase is unprecedented,” he said.

Lines for Life involved more than 40,000 Oregonians calling 988, with 11,000 additional texts and conversations in the first year, according to Holton.

“Perhaps the most important thing to me about 988 is that I think 988 is helping to remove the stigma of getting help,” he said.

Compassion counselors are there to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter how much you’re struggling.

“It’s very rare that we have to get emergency services involved or something like that,” Holton said. “Over 95% of the time, we’re able to help people work through problems by talking on the phone.”

“It’s a big deal. I mean, the rollout of 988 was huge. It was a significant change in access to behavioral health,” said Dr. Mike Franz.

Franz is the senior medical director of behavioral health for Regence. He says this 988 year mark should be celebrated, but more work needs to be done to increase access to behavioral health resources and treatment.

Oregon is one of the worst states in the US for the prevalence of mental illness and access to care, according to Mental Health America annual report.

“A lot of work is being done in those areas, a lot of innovative solutions are being made,” he said.

Remember, you are not alone and someone is always there to help on the 988 lifeline.

“Part of the whole reason we created 988 as a nation and as a community is that we all struggle. Everyone struggles. It’s okay to get help and assistance,” Holton said.

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