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National Mental Health Crisis Line 988 helps millions of Americans in its first year

988 rolled out in July 2022 as the new national suicide crisis line. It’s evolved since then as a reliable resource available 24/7.

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

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

Since launching in July 2022, it’s helped millions of Americans by connecting them with trained counselors who offer real help in times of crisis.

Since the rollout, the three-digit lifeline has answered nearly 5 million contacts. Compared to the 12 months prior, texts for help were up 1,135%, chats up 141%, and calls up 46%, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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

Holton is the CEO of Lines for Life, one of two local call centers that Oregonians are connected to when they call 988.

“Our volume is up somewhere between 35-40%, which is remarkable, right? If you’re in sales or your run a small business or anything like that you know that an increase of 35% is unprecedented,” he said. 

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

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

Compassionate counselors are there to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter to what degree you’re struggling.

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

“It’s a big deal. I mean, the rollout of 988 was huge. It was a monumental shift in how behavioral health is accessed," said Dr. Mike Franz.  

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

Oregon ranks as one of the worst states in the U.S. when it comes to mental illness prevalence and access to care, according to Mental Health America’s annual report.

“A lot of work being done on those fronts, a lot of innovative solutions being attempted,” he said.

Remember, you’re not alone and someone is always there to help at the lifeline 988.

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

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