New national 988 suicide and crisis lifeline helps more Idahoans

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says helpline has helped more people in Idaho and across the U.S. get help quicker

By: - July 18, 2023 4:30 am
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Since launching last July, the 988 helpline has been used almost 5 million times, including nearly 1 million times for the Veterans Crisis Line. More than 12,600 calls to the helpline have come from Idaho. (Getty Images)

It’s been one year since anyone in the U.S. experiencing a mental health crisis could dial three numbers — 988 — and get connected with a trained crisis counselor.

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New numbers say it’s helped more people get the help they need quicker.

The new national suicide and crisis lifeline connected 1-800 numbers that helped connect patients in need. Now, calling that number will connect you with trained professionals at one of the more than 200 call centers throughout the U.S. 

“It’s available 24/7, and you’re talking to a live person,” Nicole Coleman, 988 Program Manager in the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said in a news release Monday. “Nothing beats being able to speak to a live person when you feel alone.”

988 suicide and crisis lifeline has been used 5 million times in last year

Since launching last July, 988 has been used almost 5 million times, including nearly 1 million times for the Veterans Crisis Line. The new number has served 2.6 million calls, more than 740,000 chats and over 600,000 texts, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports. That’s about a 33% rise in services provided from the previous year, the foundation finds. 

The new national 988 suicide and crisis lifeline helped answer 12,657 calls in Idaho last year, according to the news release. Another 11,179 calls were made to the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline, resulting in a total of 23,836 calls, a 10.6% increase from the year before. That hotline answers 988 calls in Idaho.

Idaho had an 80% call answer rate, slightly below the national average of 84%. That data, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, measured calls and answers in April and May, showing that Idaho answered 1,994 of 2,472 calls. 

Idaho’s suicide rate has declined in recent years. But suicide is still the ninth leading cause of death in Idaho, behind diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Idaho had the 12th highest suicide rate in the nation in 2021, with 387 deaths, or 20.5 deaths per 100,000 people. That rate is down about 14% from 2018, when Idaho recorded 417 deaths by suicide.

Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline Director Lee Flinn estimates that 85% or more of the hotline’s calls result in support for the person calling, helping reduce their stress and keeping them safe. 

“We are the front door into Idaho’s mental health and crisis care systems,” said Flinn, whose hotline answers 988 calls in Idaho.

Shifting to the national hotline reduced call times and improved patient outcomes, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported in a news release Monday. The national average speed to answer calls fell to 35 seconds, down significantly from more than two minutes before. And 45% more calls and 52% more chats were answered.

How you can get help

Call or text 988 to talk to a trained crisis counselor. Phone services are provided in English and Spanish, with translator services available for 250 other languages. Text services are only provided in English. For online messaging, visit

A trained crisis counselor will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support and share resources, if needed.

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