Sunday, July 16, marks the one-year anniversary of the launching of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Prior to that, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline required dialing a 10-digit number, but the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act –signed into law after the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020 – authorized 988 as a new three-digit number for suicide and mental health crisis.
The lifeline is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline links to the Veterans Crisis Line; veterans who dial 988 have the option to press 1 and then speak, text or live chat with a responder.
According to Salon, more than 4.5 million calls were made to the 988 lifeline in the 11 month period ending May 31, 2023. In May alone, more than 460,000 routed contacts were made through the 988 lifeline, while 66,259 of those were routed to the Veterans Crisis Line.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide rates increased 30% between 2000–2018, declined in 2019–2020, and increased again in 2021.