Since the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline launched in July, calls from Kentucky numbers have gone up 26% and texts by 401%

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

In the six months since the new, easy-to-remember 988 suicide and crisis lifeline launched, calls have increased 26 percent, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

Beshear said at his regular weekly news conference that the “mental health version of 911” is designed to connect people in a mental health emergency with someone who is specifically trained to help them.

Since the new number launched in July 2022, Beshear said trained counselors have responded to an average of 2,450 calls per month.

“That means that since 988 has been instituted, we’ve had a 26 percent increase in calls per month in comparison to the first half of 2022,” he said.

Susan Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told Kentucky Health News in an email that text messages have also increased. She said there had been 646 suicide hotline texts from a Kentucky-based phone number in the first half of the year, and 3,238 in the six months since 988 was launched, a 401% increase.

The new line is proving its value in other ways. Beshear said there has been a 14% decrease in abandoned calls and 92% of Kentucky’s 13 participating call centers have answered calls in less than 20 seconds.

“You don’t want to have somebody on hold when they’re going through a mental-health crisis,” he said. “This is great news. It means the 988 helpline is working.”

Beshear encouraged Kentuckians struggling with a mental health crisis to use this resource.

“Remember, it’s OK to not be OK, right? We all go through difficult times and sometimes we go through trauma that our bodies and our minds are not designed to take, that nobody could handle no matter how strong we are. So please reach out. These are people who have trained and who have helped other people, that are ready to help you through your most difficult time,” he said.

“I mean, let me tell you, you got people out there that love you, whether it feels like it or not, they love you. They want you to be with them the next day, and the next year, and the next decade. So if you need that help, please dial 988, no stigma, no shame, just a community and a commonwealth that loves you, and wants you to get the help that you need.”

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