A Transformative Shift in
Suicide Prevention

“The implementation of 988 will be game-changing for emotional wellness across this country.”

-Dr. Brian Hepburn

3.6 Million

calls, texts, and online chats fielded by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2020

Getting help will soon be easier. 988, the soon-to-be new easy to remember access code for the SAMHSA-funded and Vibrant-administered National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will transform mental health crisis response in the United States. Together with our partners at SAMHSA, the States, the Lifeline crisis center network and everyone working towards suicide prevention, we are planning for the expansion and strengthening of the nation’s mental health safety net.

We know that just the act of reaching out to a trained mental healthcare professional has a positive impact on people in crisis. In fact, over 90% of people who reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, report a positive outcome from the act of connecting and sharing their story with someone at one of the Lifeline’s call centers. The data shows us that crisis hotlines expand access to emotional health support. They help people in their darkest hour.

The Lifeline, which is administered by Vibrant, has had a profound impact on the emotional wellbeing of people in emotional distress. But, let’s face it -- Lifeline’s number (1-800-273-8255) is long and hard-to-remember. When someone is feeling despondent or even suicidal, they need an easy-to-recall dialiing code, akin to 911, to call. That’s why the implementation of 988 is such a game-changer. This 3-digit number will offer easy access to emotional health and suicidal crisis support. It’s really a once-in-a-generation opportunity for reimagining crisis response work.

But transitioning to this new dialing code requires significant work. Vibrant recognized this and generously made planning grants available to all states and U.S. territories. Almost every state and territory participated, using the funding to develop clear roadmaps for how to address coordination, capacity, funding, and communications surrounding the launch of 988. The grants helped states evaluate their readiness for 988 and develop plans to fill gaps and be better prepared for the change to a 988 crisis system. This was an outstanding effort by Vibrant. 

As the administrator of the Lifeline, Vibrant knows how to prepare crisis center operators to address emotional health distress right then and there when someone reaches out. In partnership with researchers and the crisis center network, Vibrant has established best practices in suicide prevention, making the Lifeline’s network a high-quality, best-in-class operation that will continue to be further enhanced under 988.

988 will also strengthen the modalities of care by expanding on existing chat and texting services. Vibrant has long championed these methods of reaching people in crisis, because for some, texting or chatting with a counselor can feel less intimidating than picking up the phone. Offering these options expands accessibility for anyone who needs support, however they feel most comfortable receiving it. 

With Vibrant administering 988 going forward, individuals in distress will receive the mental health crisis intervention and emotional support needed to survive and thrive. 

Next Story

Delivering Immediate Support,
Anytime &Anywhere

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When the pandemic began, NYC Well, New York City's flagship go-to-resource for confidential mental health support, crisis intervention, and connection to services, had just five days to shift more than 100 crisis counselors to remote work, all while continuing to provide this lifesaving service. Katherine Polanco, Operations Manager for NYC Well, tells us how she and the counselors adapted to meet the needs of her staff, and the people they serve, practically overnight.

March 2020 was the beginning of the pandemic and New York City was at the epicenter of the global crisis. There was so much fear on the streets, in homes and across offices. No one knew what was coming and what impact it would have on all our lives. This was the backdrop NYC Well operated under in the early days of the pandemic. As New York City’s free, comprehensive crisis and support line administered by Vibrant, we knew we had to move our team to an all-virtual work environment, and it had to happen fast. We couldn’t afford to not deliver our essential services.

Over the course of just five head-spinning days in mid-March, our IT and HR departments worked around the clock preparing to transition our 100 hotline counselors into a remote workforce. This included procuring and setting up hundreds of additional headsets, computer monitors, and laptops. Our counselors remained committed to meeting the growing needs of New Yorkers, taking calls from the office until they received the necessary supplies to work remotely. And in a city where most people don’t have cars, they had to be creative to transport their devices home. I’ll never forget watching several of them pack a laptop into a backpack, a computer monitor in one hand, as they headed out the door to the subway. Their commitment ensured the hotline could respond to the spike in call volume caused by the threat of COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues, so too does the overwhelming need for NYC Well’s emotional health services. We have responded by tripling our staff, from 100 to more than 200 crisis counselors. Being able to meet the increased demand for our services has been gratifying. Our counselors are providing support to New Yorkers in emotional distress and helping people find the resources they need. This has never been more important than during this time. The counselors are the mental health heroes of this pandemic.

While this has been an intense and challenging chapter for everyone. I am proud of how our team adapted, without interrupting the support we provide to New Yorkers. We have demonstrated what we always say -- that NYC Well is here for you, no matter the time of day or the crisis you are facing. We show up for you and we give you our all.