National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Simplified to 988
Last updated 9/8/2022 at 4:18pm | View PDF
In July, the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was simplified to 988 – an easy-to-remember three-digit number for 24/7 crisis care.
The lifeline, which also links to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need.
This new, simplified tool is critical for older adults and those living with a disability because such individuals are at greater risk for mental health crisis and suicide. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration pointed out in its Appropriations Report for 988, suicide rates are higher among older adults.
Among men, the suicide rate is highest for adults aged 75 and older, while among women, the suicide rate is highest among those aged 45 to 64. Likewise, a recent study found that people with disabilities were significantly more likely than those without disabilities to report suicidal ideation, planning, or attempt.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline offers a simpler and more effective way for older adults and those living with disabilities to access help in the event of a mental health crisis.
Suicide in Tulare and Kings Counties
According to numbers provided by Tulare County Mental Health, in the first half of 2022, there have been 15 suicides in the county (13 males, 2 females). The majority of them have been 45 or older (two 45-54, one 55-64 and six 65 or older).
Last year, there were 35 suicides (29 males, six females), with 13 of them 45 or older. In 2020, there were 36 (31 males, five females), 17 of them by those 45 and older.
Kings County reported six suicides (five males, one female) in the first seven months of July, with two 45 or older. This is a higher suicide rate than last year, which had nine suicides (five males, four females), three of them 45 or older.
In 2020, there were 17 suicides in Kings County (14 males, three females), with five of them being 45 or older.
"We are looking forward to the improved ability to put crisis care more in reach for people in need through the use of 988," said Lisa D. Lewis, Ph.D., Kings County Behavioral Health director. "We have been working hard in Kings County to strengthen and build our system of care for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. The addition of the national resource of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline will assist us all greatly in providing care to individuals in crisis and their loved ones.
The National Suicide Hotline
Since January 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration has invested $432 million to scale crisis center capacity and ensure all Americans have access to help during mental health crises.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law after the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020, authorized 988 as a new three-digit number for suicide and mental health crisis. All telephone service and text providers in the United States and the five major U.S. territories were required by the FCC to activate 988 no later than July 16.
“988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who has been meeting with states across the country about the transition to 988 as part of HHS’ National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health. “There is still much work to do. We are looking to every governor and every state in the nation to do their part to make this a long-term success.”
The Biden-Harris Administration increased federal investments in the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline from $24 million to $432 million to scale up crisis centers and back-up center capacity, and to provide special services, including a network for Spanish language speakers.
The $432 million included $105 million in grant funding to states and territories, provided by the American Rescue Plan, to improve response rates, increase capacity to meet future demand, and ensure calls initiated in their states or territories are first routed to local, regional, or state crisis call centers. Prior to this investment, the lifeline, which has existed since 2005, had been long unfunded and under-resourced.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers supported by HHS through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules designating 988 for this purpose. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this service by establishing the ability to also text 988.
VA administers the Veterans Crisis Line through the lifeline’s national network. Because of VA’s partnership with the lifeline, the Veterans Crisis Line is affected by this transition to a new number. Veterans and their loved ones can now dial 988, then press 1, to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.