NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Three numbers are saving lives every day: 988 is the number for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that launched six months ago. It's been widely used and has found a lot of success.
In Tennessee, 21,000 calls came in to the hotline in the last six months of 2022. People also submitted 10,000 texts to the number and chat messages online at 988lifeline.org.
Previously, the hotline was the ten-digit number 1-800-273-8255 which still works, but the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said the new number is getting about 500 more calls per month.
To make this a success, almost $3 million in federal funding went to local call centers to hire more staff. This means when someone calls in they're not getting someone across the country, they're talking to someone in their region who is able to help with local resources and contacts. In crisis situations, that can make a big difference.
The toll on mental health has only intensified since the pandemic began as the U.S. saw a 4% increase in the suicide rate in 2021. It affects all ages, but recently counselors have seen an alarming trend in children.
"What we are seeing that is the most concerning is younger kids that are actually harming themselves. Research shows the risk between kids who engage in self-harm behavior have an increased risk of suicide later on in their life," said youth counselor Jodie Martens.
Because of the strong start, more funding is coming to the program for larger cities in the state like Nashville.