New data from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) shows that the state’s launch of the three-digit Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is paying off.
Tennessee’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline was launched in July of last year after two years of “planning, preparation, and expansion,” according to TDMHSAS. In preparation of the launch of the lifeline, about $2.8 million in federal funding was distributed to community-based crisis call centers to hire dozens of new staff, the department notes.
Within the first six months of its rollout, approximately 21,000 calls were made to the 988 lifeline from Tennesseans – an increase of 500 calls per month to the previous 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.
TDMHSAS data also showed that Tennesseans also took advantage of the lifeline’s ability to text or chat, as the last half of 2022 saw nearly 10,000 texts to 988 and chats with 988lifeline.org from people in the state.
In response to the strong start of the three-digit lifeline, $1 million in supplemental funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and existing Mental Health Block Grant Funding will go towards supporting additional capacity in Nashville, Knoxville, and west Tennessee to meet “increased demand for assistance.”
“It’s never been easier to connect with mental health care in a crisis thanks to 988. Our state has an amazing network of crisis services and community mental health providers, and 988 is unlocking the door to mental health help that so many people need right now,” TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams said in a statement. “We are grateful to our community partners who expanded to meet the demand and continue to respond to needs in a caring and compassionate way.”
In the United States, suicide increased 35 percent from 1999 to 2018 before declining by 5 percent through 2020, according to data by the CDC. As previously reported, suspected suicide attempts began increasing to higher-than-usual levels during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020.
People in suicidal crisis or emotional distress can reach out to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for free and confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network.