988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline nears two-year anniversary as organizations push for more resources

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hopes that anyone in need knows they can depend on them

With a push for more resources and a nearing milestone, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention aims to spread awareness.

AFSP is nearing its second anniversary of launching the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline on July 16.

“It existed before it was known as the suicide lifeline, but it was a toll-free number, so it was a full-on number where you dialed it, whereas now you can text chat or call 988, and it’ll connect to a crisis counselor,” said Julia Hewitt, with AFSP.

Hewitt explains as soon as the 988 lifeline was launched, it made an impact.

“In the first two months in 2022, when it first rolled out, the usage exceeded that entire year to date,” said Hewitt.

But the work is not done. According to AFSP, in 2021 and 2022, the United States experienced a suicide every 11 minutes, and suicides were the second leading cause of death for those ages 10-14 and 25-34.

“That’s part of the reason why AFSP is so relentless in ensuring that these legislative efforts are being made, and we’re trying to get the support that we can,” said Frances Arias, with AFSP.

AFSP wrapped up an advocacy forum in Washington, D.C., a week ago. The organization went to continue spreading awareness about the 988 lifeline and also to push for three new bills.

The Local 988 Response Act requires that calls and texts to the 988 suicide crisis lifeline be routed to the caller’s closest crisis center, rather than one within the caller’s area code.

The Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act requires colleges and universities to add contact information for the 988 lifeline, crisis text line, and any other campus mental health center or program on student ID cards or school websites.

The Connect Act authorizes $30 million of federal funding grant programs to help eligible crisis centers provide follow-up services to individuals who received suicide prevention and crisis care services.

“The connect act, so after the fact, the follow-up calls that you get from a crisis counselor the following day, those are imperative phone calls after the fact when an individual who is in crisis can be stabilized,” said Arias.

AFSP hopes anyone in need knows they can depend on them.

“When a person reaches out, its a sign of needing help, and it’s a sign of strength, and being proactive and looking for ways to exit that crisis mode,” said Hewitt.

About the Authors

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.

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