9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
Laura Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice
July 16, 2022 was the roll-out date for ”9-8-8”, the new US network for people looking for help with suicidality or other emotional crises. This phone number is designed to be used for text or for telephone access to volunteers who will provide initial assistance to callers, then triage them to LCSWs and other licensed clinicians.
Ultimately, 9-8-8 will become the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK); the new number will be easier to remember and access. This older hotline will remain in effect for an as yet undetermined period of time while 9-8-8 becomes fully operational.
There is no question of need: there has been an exponential increase in suicides and suicide attempts since the pandemic began almost three years ago. Here is what LCSWs should know about the implementation of this new system.
The $400 million set aside in Federal funding for 9-8-8 is about half of what will be needed to fund the services in every state. So far, the only states that have provided the needed state funding are Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and Washington. Nine states have legislation in progress to provide this funding; 37 states have no plan to provide funding. CSWA encourages members to ask their state legislators to find the state funding for 9-8-8 so that it can be fully functional as soon as possible. To see what your state’s plan is for funding 9-8-8, go to https://reimaginecrisis.org/map/.
How serious is the issue of suicide? Here are the number of suicides in the most recently recorded year, 2020:
- In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes
- Suicide was the leading cause of death for individuals between ages 10-34 in 2020
- Over 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses in the nine months from April 2020 to the end of the year
While 2020 actually saw a decrease in suicides from 2019 overall (17.7%, https://suicidology.org/2021/04/02/2020data/), of grave concern is the fact that there was an increase for young adults and BIPOC communities of all ages in 2020 (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20211103/suicide-rates-2020-cdc) .
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has prepared a toolkit to further explain the need for 988. For FAQs and Fact Sheets, go to
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/partner-toolkit. Also feel free to contact me for more information.