MONDAY, Sept. 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched a new suicide and crisis hotline using just the numbers 988 in July, and now new data show calls climbed 45 percent compared with the same time last year.

“Our nation’s transition to 988 moves us closer to better serving the crisis care needs of people across America,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement released Friday. “988 is more than a number, it’s a message: we’re there for you. The transition to 988 is just the beginning. We will continue working towards comprehensive, responsive crisis care services nationwide to save lives.”

The lifeline call center received a total of 361,140 calls, chats, and texts last month, according to performance data for August. It took an average of 42 seconds for each to be answered. While about 12 percent of all were disconnected before they reached a counselor, about 88 percent reached a counselor, including 84 percent of calls, 97 percent of chats, and 98 percent of texts. Counselors spent an average of 18 minutes and 49 seconds on each call or text. The number of calls, chats, and texts was 152,000 more than during the previous August and the wait time to reach a counselor was down from 2.5 minutes.

“We want everyone to know that there is hope. Whether you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, there is compassionate, accessible care and support,” Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance use and leader of the HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), said in the HHS statement. “With rising levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses — and the devastating number of overdose deaths — it is crucial that people have somewhere to turn when they’re in crisis.”

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