TOPEKA (KSNT) – A year after changing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, officials still say there is a long way to go into making 988 a household number.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number to 988 in 2022, but officials say the number is not as widespread throughout the U.S. as they would like it to be. The National Suicide Prevention Lifetime number was changed to 988 in the hopes it would be used more because it is shorter and easier to remember than the previous 10-digit number, according to Jared Auten, Crisis Line Director at the Kansas Suicide Prevention Headquarters
According to a study conducted in June of 2023, by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only 17% of Americans are familiar with 988. Auten told KSNT 27 News there is still room for improvement on getting this number out to the public.
“The key findings from the 2023 survey was that 82% of Americans are not familiar with 988,” Auten said. “There’s still a long way to go.”
Auten said his office is proactive in getting this information out to a variety of groups such as law enforcement agencies, schools and mental health providers. The 988 number is a free avenue for people to talk to counselors 24/7 who are equipped to help individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, emotional distress or relationship distress. The goal is to help people before it’s too late.
“We really want people to know that they can and should call before a full-blown crisis develops, so that they have a sense of what direction they can go to get the support they deserve,” Auten said.
Auten told KSNT 27 News 988 is being advertised as the household name people should think to call during a mental health crisis or emotional distress, like people use 911 during an emergency.
According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost 450,000 contacts were routed using the 988 hotline from June 1 to June 31, 2023. Data shows the total number of contacts from July 1 to July 31, 2022, was almost 407,000.