New nationwide 988 suicide and crisis hotline sees success in Utah

Sep 9, 2022, 7:45 PM | Updated: Feb 9, 2023, 5:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Since 988 launched nationwide in July, the suicide and crisis lifeline has seen an increase in calls in Utah.

Rachel Lucynski, director of community crisis services with Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said they have seen a 35% increase from August 2021 to 2022 in calls to 988 versus the old 10-digit number.

“What used to be 1-800-273-8255 is now 988. Much easier to remember, much easier to access life-saving support,” Lucynski said. “We were surprised. I anticipated that there would be an increase in calls, but we really, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect.”

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, began the push for a three-digit suicide prevention hotline for Utah nearly a decade ago. In 2016, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart heard about Thatcher’s idea, worked on it and eventually Congress paved the way for 988 to become a national suicide hotline in July 2022.

Lucynski attributes the new number’s success to the work they did to educate Utahns before the new hotline launched.

“Because of our preparation, we are in the top tier of answer rates in the country,” she said.

The Utah crisis line is staffed 24/7 by a team of certified crisis workers that help each caller navigate their next steps — work that Lucynski said has saved lives.

“We know that there are more than 1,000 people who are still here today based on the calls that we have handled,” she said.

Lucynski said as calls increase, they are looking for mental health counselors to join their team. They have a goal to double the size of their department this fiscal year. Jobs are posted on

Connecting with resources

Maddy Spaulding did not know about the suicide prevention hotline when she attempted suicide at just 15 years old in 2015. She spent several days in the hospital, a place, she says, changed her for the better.

“The hospital was really great. They connected me with a lot of resources,” she said. “A social worker there would come and visit with me every couple [of] hours.”

She said it was during those visits she learned about the numerous mental health resources available to people just like her.

“I didn’t realize that there are a lot of people going through similar things, that there are a lot of resources for people going through those things,” Spaulding said. “I think I would have been gone within like a year of that first attempt if I didn’t have all the resources that I have.”

Now, seven years later, Spaulding still takes advantage of mental health resources and participates in suicide awareness events. She hopes her story educates others on the help that is out there, like the 988 line.

“Not only is there hope but there’s options when you feel like there is no hope,” Spaulding said. “It just makes me very happy to know that, hopefully, fewer people will struggle the way I did because of that 988 number.”

Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.

Additional resources

  • SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-3388)
  • SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
  • SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
  • Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
  • is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.

Other community-based resources

KSL 5 TV Live

Healthy Mind Matters

Dexton Obray was only 14 years old when he took his life in Monroe, Utah in October 2022. Since his...

Aley Davis

7th grade football player spreads mental health awareness after losing teammate to suicide

A 12-year-old boy is working to raise awareness after his football teammate died by suicide in October 2022.

10 days ago

Aron and Joe Tuia'ana (KSL TV)...

Peter Rosen

Utah man’s mission began on an overpass

Men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide. For Joe Tuia'ana that’s more than a statistic.

12 days ago

Branson Callor...

Candice Madsen

Huntsman Mental Health Institute leads world’s largest genetic study of suicide

Researchers at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute are leading the largest genetic study of suicide in the world. Twenty-two countries are participating in the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC).

17 days ago

Studio owner Sterling Brown has created a safe and creative space for artists...

Brittany Tait

How a Cache Valley art studio is using clay to heal

A new art studio in Cache Valley promotes inclusivity, safe spaces, creative learning and it's using clay to heal.

29 days ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Tamara Vaifanua

How to help kids cope with anxiety

The start of a school year can be an exciting time for kids, but some may feel a little anxious about it. Here's how to help.

1 month ago

Dawn Wilson and Lynze Preeze...

Mike Anderson

Family pushes for suicide prevention in face of difficult tragedy

A Cache Valley family is trying to spread the word about help for suicide prevention and bring some positive change from their own horrible tragedy.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

rodeo contestant on a saddle bronc...


Get Ready for the Days of ‘47 Rodeo!

The Days of '47 Rodeo is a series of events everyone in the family can enjoy, with world-class rodeo contestants vying for the gold medal.

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home...

Lighting Design

How to Know When to Upgrade Your Lighting

This guide explores indicators that suggest it’s time for a lighting upgrade with tips to make an informed decision when you’re ready to buy. 

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

New nationwide 988 suicide and crisis hotline sees success in Utah