July 15, 2023 – Last July, the cumbersome 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline became 988. The easy-to-remember lifeline was created to help people dealing with issues like depression, substance use and suicidal ideation get immediate help and be guided to additional resources. At the one-year mark, there’s some success to report: Texts to the lifeline increased dramatically and average wait times across the line plummeted from 2 minutes 39 seconds to 41 seconds.

“I am gratefully surprised at how smoothly everything has worked,” says Jennifer Battle, who runs 988 for the Harris Center in Houston, Texas. “I was expecting the volume to be so significant so quickly that we would feel like we were drowning.”

Still, mental health leaders say more work is needed urgently to meet the line’s full potential and save lives. Federal statistics show more than 14 million adults in the U.S. had a serious mental illness in 2021, and 12.3 million seriously considered suicide. In particular, the rates of suicide and mental illness among young people are a growing concern among mental health advocates and policymakers.