Jul 25, 2023 - News

Nearly 9% of 988 calls in Utah left unanswered

Share of 988 suicide and crisis hotline calls left unanswered in their own state
Data: Kaiser Family Foundation; Note: Does not include calls to the Veterans Crisis Line; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Nearly 9% of the 5,629 calls made to 988 across Utah went unanswered by in-state counselors between April and May, per a new analysis from health research outlet KFF.

Why it matters: These missed calls are happening at a time when most Americans still aren't aware the 988 national suicide prevention and mental health hotline exists, Axios' Sabrina Moreno reports.

Zoom in: Utah is one of the few states to appropriate ongoing funding to sustain the hotline.

The big picture: Plans to use some of the nearly $1 billion in federal funding for a nationwide public service campaign haven't materialized, partly due to concerns that marketing 988 could overwhelm the lifeline beyond capacity.

Still, since the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was replaced last year with an easier-to-remember number, 988 has been contacted nearly 5 million times nationwide.

  • Officials, mental health advocates and call center leaders say they're pleased with that.

Yes, but: More than 80% of Americans remain unfamiliar with the hotline, according to a recent National Alliance on Mental Illness survey.

  • And funding remains uncertain — only six states have enacted legislation to create monthly phone line fees to support the system, similar to how 911 is funded.
  • Six more states have bills pending, per NAMI's tracker, while others have made general fund appropriations.

The bottom line: "We have to remember, we're at the beginning of what's going to be a marathon, not a sprint," said Chuck Ingoglia, CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

  • "It's taken 15 years for 911 to evolve to the kind of system that it is today. We're just one year in."

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 — or you can text message or call 988.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Salt Lake City.

More Salt Lake City stories