HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

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 employment.utah.edu.

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.
  • LiveOnUtah.org 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.

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New nationwide 988 suicide and crisis hotline sees success in Utah