May 17, 2024  — Categorized in:

Transforming Crisis Response: Revolutionizing Mental Health Access Across the Country

“With Vibrant’s support, you’re never alone. There’s always someone you can reach out to and connect to who can offer validation and emotional health resources.” – Christian Burgess, Disaster Distress Helpline Director

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline’s first year demonstrated the enormous impact this three-digit number has already had in offering unprecedented access to emotional and mental health services nationwide. Since its launch in July 2022, the 988 Lifeline has answered nearly 5 million contacts — nearly 2 million more than the previous 12 months. “988 has offered help where there was none,” said Dr. Tia Dole, Chief 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Officer. “For individuals who live in rural communities, for example, the ability to access mental health services has historically been limited. 988 offers help for anyone, anytime, anywhere, and connects people in crisis to local community mental health resources for continued, on-the-ground support.” Boasting a network of 215 crisis centers, trained crisis counselors support people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7, sharing resources and making community connections. “The counselors who speak to people in need every single day are the key to 988’s success,” said Dr. Dole. “They advance hope for people who often feel there is nowhere to turn for help.” Over the past 12 months, Vibrant and its partners have focused on expanding the 988 Lifeline’s lifesaving services. 988 now offers Spanish text and chat services, expanding upon the existing Spanish call specialized service, and has added specialized services for LGBTQI+ youth and young adults. These enhancements have extended assistance to millions more Americans seeking crisis emotional health support. Presently, the 988 Lifeline has experienced a surge in contact volume, leading to a 46% rise in calls, a 141% increase in chats, and a substantial surge in text volume, resulting in a staggering 1135% increase.

This remarkable surge in engagement with 988 underscores the success of Vibrant and its partners in raising awareness about the Lifeline, highlighting the dedication and impact of the nationwide network of crisis centers. “Our vision is for people across America to recognize ‘988’ as readily as ‘911’,” said Dr. Dole. When we achieve this goal, we will be able to reach more individuals who are struggling or in crisis than ever before. 988 empowers us to advance hope for millions of Americans.

“The launch of 988 is the most transformational mental health initiative in a generation. This simple 3-digit number is already shifting the way that people reach out for and access emotional health support, signifying a groundbreaking step towards a more inclusive and responsive mental health system.” – Kim Williams, former President and CEO

Always Available in the Face of Disaster: A decade of resilience with the Disaster Distress Helpline:

Americans grapple every year with a range of national and local crises, from mass shootings to natural disasters. Vibrant’s Disaster Distress Helpline ensures that people in crisis have the emotional support and resources when, where, and how they need them to navigate these challenging experiences. Key Statistics: 30%+ | Increase in DDH call, text, and videophone volume from 2022-2023 For more than 10 years, the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) has provided critical counseling and emotional support to people experiencing crises across the nation and U.S. territories – from natural disasters to mass casualty events. Throughout 2023, we witnessed the increasing intensity and frequency of climate events, such as floods and wildfires, as well as the tragic occurrence of mass shootings. As a result, from 2022 to 2023, DDH’s call, text, and videophone volumes increased by 30%. Thanks to the commitment of a network of local crisis centers, DDH was not only able to keep up with the demand, but also improve the Helpline’s answer rates and wait times. “We’re showing survivors and responders that in the face of relentless crises, we’re here for you,” said Christian Burgess, Distress Helpline Director.

Over the past year, DDH has focused on enhancing its core capabilities, ensuring more people can access the Helpline for emotional recovery. When the deadliest wildfire event in U.S. history hit Maui, DDH recognized the need to offer the Helpline in the native Hawaiian language. Partnering with a professional translation service, DDH was able to quickly offer assistance in Hawaiian. “Hawaii, like other American islands, often feels left behind when it comes to emotional health services and attention,” said Burgess. “We believe it’s important to meet the cultural and language needs of those in crisis and respond with concrete support services.” The Helpline’s peer support community programs were a vital resource to people during the pandemic and have continued to serve as such since. DDH Peer Supporters have worked hard to communicate its commitment to remaining a source of mutual aid to people facing long-term recovery from COVID or grief from the loss of loved ones to the virus. Over the past year, DDH Peer Supporters facilitated over 10,000 supportive interactions, and community membership increased by 50%. DDH Peer Supporters continue to offer support to people experiencing the effects of the pandemic.

In partnership with Vibrant’s longtime partner, DeafLead, DDH expanded its efforts to make deaf or hard-of-hearing people experiencing a disaster aware of its videophone option, offering a 24/7 direct connection to trained DDH counselors fluent in American Sign Language. This collaborative effort included creating a suite of videos in ASL that explain DDH’s offering to the deaf community, helping to spread the word more effectively through digital channels. No matter how many natural or human-made disasters strike our nation, DDH remains focused on constantly improving access and advancing hope for survivors on their path to recovery.


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