Jun 3, 2022 - Health

New suicide hotline preparedness lacking, report finds

Illustration of a phone with the wire in the shape of a heart.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Fewer than half of the public health officials responsible for deploying the new 988 national suicide prevention and mental health hotline are confident their communities have the necessary staff, financing or equipment, according to a new Rand report.

Catch up quick: Phone service providers are required to route calls or text messages sent to 988 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) by July 16.

  • There have been concerns that an expected increase in outreach will strain crisis center capacity.

By the numbers: 51% of mental health agency directors Rand surveyed reported that they hadn't been involved in the development of a strategic plan for the launch of 988. Only 16% reported that they had helped develop a budget to support 988 operations.

  • About 85% reported that there was a mental health emergency hotline or call center operating in their jurisdiction, although fewer than one-half of those hotlines were reported as part of the Lifeline network that will field 988 calls.
  • That means callers could reach a Lifeline call center that is unfamiliar with local resources, Rand noted.
  • 55% of places with hotlines had staff trained to interact with children and adolescents, but fewer than half had training to interact with other special populations like people experiencing homelessness or LGBTQ individuals.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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