Jul 11, 2022 - Health

1 in 6 calls to national suicide hotline end without reaching a counselor

A volunteer at the Samaritans Call Center in Boston answers phone calls from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on Feb. 28, 2020. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

One in six calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline end without reaching a counselor, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Driving the news: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received about 9.2 million calls between 2016 and 2021. Of those, 1.5 million calls ended before reaching a counselor, per the Journal.

The big picture: The service is expected to see an increase in calls and texts as it switches from a 10-digit number to a more memorable three-digit one (988) on July 16. But there have been concerns that an expected increase in outreach will strain crisis center capacity.

  • Callers either abandoned the call or were disconnected before reaching a counselor, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • The majority of callers in 11 states were transferred to national backup centers because local centers did not have the capacity to answer, according to the Journal. Calls are typically sent to local crisis centers first, as they have greater knowledge of the area the caller comes from and its resources.
  • Almost three in four calls in Illinois were routed out-of-state from 2016 to 2021, the highest of any state, according to the Journal.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Margaret Harding McGill: Government officials have known that the nations' crisis centers are already struggling to keep up with the volume ahead of the switch to 988, but have been slow to provide the necessary funding to meet the demand.

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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