Two new studies show emerging awareness of the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline among both policymakers and the general public—but also point to potential areas of improvement for the vital nationwide service.

In July 2022, “988” became the new number for the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides a phone, text, and chat resource for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, substance use crises, and other psychological distress.

Similar to dialing 911 in emergencies, the use of a three-digit dialing code for mental health crises is designed to be accessible and easy to remember.

However, public awareness of 988 is off to a slow start, according to a survey conducted this spring. To better understand whether people know about and use 988 depending on their mental well-being, and to get a sense of how much policymakers are communicating about 988, the researchers undertook two studies about the 988 Lifeline during its nascency.


In one study, the researchers surveyed 5,058 US adults to see if people with varying degrees of psychological distress had different levels of awareness and use of 988.

In the nationally representative, web-based survey of US adults conducted in June 2023, they asked participants about their mental health—including whether they feel nervous, hopeless, depressed, or worthless, and whether these feelings hurt their ability to function.

They also asked participants whether they had heard of 988, if they had used 988 themselves, and about their likelihood of using 988 in the future if they or a loved one were experiencing a crisis or suicidality.

The researchers found that people with serious and moderate psychological distress were significantly more likely to have heard of 988 (47.4% and 45%) than those without distress (40.4%). In addition, 6% of people with serious psychological distress reported using the 988 Lifeline, making them more than 30 times as likely to use the lifeline compared to those with no distress (0.2%) and six times more likely to use 988 than those with moderate distress (1%).

Notably, when asked if they would use 988 in the future if needed, only 30% of those reporting serious psychological distress who had used 988 were very likely to use it again.

“Our findings signal a need for research about satisfaction with the 988 Lifeline among people with serious psychological distress and the extent to which 988—and the resources it connects users to—sufficiently meets their needs,” says Jonathan Purtle, associate professor in the New York University School of Global Public Health, who led the research.

Read the full article about suicide lifeline by Rachel Harrison at Futurity.