100,000 people called 988 during its first week, a historic moment in suicide prevention
Upworthy / August 6, 2022
“The launch of 988 is a historic moment for suicide prevention and crisis care in this country,” says Shari Sinwelski, vice president of crisis care for the Los Angeles-based Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, one of the more than 200 privately owned and operated organizations in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network and the first ever suicide prevention center to open in the U.S.
“The first day of the 988 launch, we received twice the total volume of contacts (calls, texts and chats) than normal,” Sinwelski told Upworthy.
Nationally, the 988 lifeline received 96,000 calls, texts and chats during the transition week (July 14–20). That’s a 45% increase in volume from the previous week, according to Sinwelski. And it’s a 66% increase in volume compared to the same week in 2021.
Sinwelski sees 988 as just the start of improving the way people access and receive crisis care in the U.S. “Not only do people in crisis now have an easier way to access services, but crisis centers are starting to receive the resources needed to fund these crucial services,” she says. “The hope is that in three to five years, everyone in mental health crisis will have someone to call, someone to come to and somewhere to go.”
While the most recent CDC figures for suicide rates among the general population showed a 5% decline in 2020 compared to the previous two years, tragically the suicide and suicide attempt rates have increased among children, teens and young adults.
“Students are facing unprecedented pressures and circumstances—school shootings, the pandemic and the effects of social media like cyberbullying and dangerous social challenges, in addition to the everyday pressures of school and family,” said Sinwelski. “Nationwide, 60% of teens and young people with depression cannot access care. We have to do better and do more to support our youth.”
The COVID-19 pandemic made mental health challenges so much worse, especially during the shutdown period and particularly among people with limited access to health services, communities of color and essential workers. During this time, “most people experienced anxiety, depression and symptoms of mental health challenges,” according to Sinwelski. “We each know someone affected in some way.”
Mental health challenges are not exclusive to a particular group of people born with a disorder or an addiction gene. Just look at who we’ve lost over the last several years: well-loved actors and comedians, a celebrity chef, fashion designers, rock stars, sports personalities, successful business executives … and more likely than not, a student at your kid’s school, a member of your book club, a fellow mom, dad, neighbor or respected veteran, perhaps even one of your relatives.
“We want people to know that there is help, they are not alone. To call 988 if they are in a mental health crisis, have suicidal thoughts, feel depressed and need help,” says Sinwelski. “988 is the first step in creating a fully resourced mental health crisis continuum in our country when so many Americans desperately need it.”
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