HealthMental Health


Increase in Suicide & Crisis Lifeline calls, texts since number change

The old suicide lifeline number was a clunky 1-800 number, but 988 is easy to remember.
Posted at 2:49 PM, Feb 10, 2023

Three numbers — 988 — the digits for the free, 24/7 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

"We're trying to get them what they need to get in the right direction," 988 operator Samantha Ryan said.

Since its launch just six months ago, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has received over 2 million calls and texts. And that's partly due to its design. The old lifeline number was a clunky 1-800 number. But 988 is easy to remember, just like 911. 

"It's lifesaving. It's completely changed access. Everyone can remember three numbers," Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center Executive Director Mariana Izraelson said.

"Now, it's not specific to just suicide crises anymore; it also includes mental health and substance use crises," Missouri Department of Mental Health 988 Coordinator Casey Muckler said. "So, this is really expanding broader access of care." 

The CDC says in 2020, nearly 46,000 people died by suicide. That's one death every 11 minutes, and experts are hoping open lines can help. 

How the new 988 hotline will change mental health crisis response

How the new 988 hotline will change mental health crisis response

Calling 988 will act as a new hotline for mental health emergencies, caring for callers before other emergency services intervene.


"Around this time, I had a friend try to commit suicide. ... I get emotional when I tell this story," said Isabella Coyle. "I'm healing, slowly but surely ... Still wondering 'Why? 'How did I not know?' 'Why didn't she call?'"

Suicide affects not just the individual, but their families and communities. Four years ago, Konnor Eyre lost his big brother to suicide. 

"It tears a piece of your heart away. It leaves a hole there that can't be filled because it is a human life that we have lost," he said. 

Suicide is the 12th-leading cause of death in America, and it affects all age groups. In Milwaukee, school counselors have seen an alarming trend in children.   

"What we are seeing that is the most concerning is younger kids that are actually harming themselves," said Jodie Martens, school-based counseling program supervisor for Christian Family Solutions. "Research shows the risk between kids who engage in self-harm behavior have an increased risk of suicide later on in their life."

Unlike the previous 1-800 number, 988 users can also text that same number for support. Experts say that could broaden access for younger populations.  

More kids are showing up to ERs with mental health crises

More kids are showing up to ERs with mental health crises

The latest CDC data shows 2.5% of students nationwide attempted suicide and required medical treatment in 2019, and about 1 in 5 U.S. students said they seriously considered an attempt.


"There may be times when they are in situations where, not only do they not want to reach out via phone, but they may not be able to. Sometimes a student may be in crisis at school and they need to reach somebody via text," Muckler said.

Missouri's Department of Health partnered with schools and youth organizations to get the word out. 

"So, I have a message for anyone out there who might feel like you need help and you've got nowhere left to turn. You're not alone. It's not too late. Dial 988," Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. 

Despite its success, long-term funding for the 988 line may be in jeopardy in some states. The federal government mandated the helpline, investing millions of dollars. But, just like 911, states are responsible for operations and funding.   

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says 29 states have passed legislation to fund any of the core crisis services.  

Those services include call centers, mobile crisis teams and community-based treatment centers. 

If you need to talk to someone, reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988 or chat at
This national network of local crisis centers provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.