A recent survey conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts reveals that only 13% of American adults understand the purpose of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, nearly a year after its widely publicized launch. The survey highlights the need for inclusive awareness campaigns led by state and local leaders to educate the public about the crisis hotline.
Lead researcher and Pew senior manager Tracy Velázquez emphasized the opportunity and necessity for awareness campaigns in the coming months. The federal government’s investment in 988 demonstrates a commitment to building a strong crisis care infrastructure in the country, which is crucial given the prevalence of mental health and substance use issues.
The 988 hotline was established last year, replacing the previous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-TALK). Pew surveyed over 5,000 adults in April, revealing that once individuals became aware of the 988 crisis line, approximately 7 in 10 respondents expressed a likelihood of using it.
However, respondents also expressed concerns about the potential outcomes of calling the hotline. Around 2 in 5 respondents worried that contacting 988 might lead to police intervention, mandatory hospitalization, financial burden, or the disclosure of their call to others.
The survey results also highlighted disparities based on race and education level. Twice as many white individuals as Black individuals were aware of the 988 line. Additionally, respondents with a college education were more knowledgeable about the hotline compared to those with a high school degree or less.
Dr. John Palmieri, deputy director of the 988 line, acknowledged the challenges faced by individuals who struggle with mental health and suicidal concerns and have limited access to care. He sees the launch of 988 as an opportunity to transform the crisis care system into a more inclusive, person-centered, and recovery-oriented approach.
Since its inception, the call volume for the 988 hotline has increased significantly. In April 2023, there were 160,000 more calls, chats, and texts compared to the previous year, with quicker response times compared to the previous hotline. Calls increased by 52%, chats by 90%, and texts answered by a remarkable 1,022%.
Increasing awareness and understanding of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is crucial to ensuring that individuals in need can access the appropriate care and support.
Continued efforts by state, local, and federal authorities, along with comprehensive awareness campaigns, are essential in promoting the use of this vital resource for mental health and crisis intervention.