Tomorrow (July 16) is the official launch date for “988,” which converts the existing 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to an easy-to-remember three-digit number.
This switch is intended to connect people suffering mental health crises more quickly with trained professionals and reduce instances where they end up in confrontations with law enforcement officers.
But there are questions about how well states are prepared to carry out the vision of “988,” especially given the current shortage of mental health professionals. There are estimates that by 2027, the emergency helpline will receive 24 million calls, texts, and online chat requests annually, although some experts say the number could reach 41 million, wrote Julie Wertheimer and Kristen Mizzi Angelone in a July 14 report for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Below are resources for covering 988, including articles by fellow journalists who have taken a deep look at the challenges with the start-up process.