988 and the Research Behind Suicide Hotlines

July 22, 2022

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


In a recent interview, suicide prevention expert Madelyn Gould shares insights on how crisis hotlines have become a critical part of the mental health care system in the U.S. Once considered ineffective, hotlines have been shown to play a key role in preventing suicide. Evaluations by Gould and others over the past 20 years have found that suicide hotlines can help stabilize callers in crisis and connect them with resources and treatment. According to Gould, the recent transition to the three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline will make crisis services more accessible and divert those in need from law enforcement to mental health supports. Members of the public may be unsure whether to call 911 or 988 if someone they know is struggling. “If someone is already engaged in suicidal behavior and their physical well-being is in jeopardy, call 911,” Gould advised. “Otherwise, it’s best to call 988 if you’re worried about someone’s behavior. Our research has found that crisis counselors can work with third-party callers to keep a person in crisis safe and get them help.”

Spark Extra! Find resources for implementing the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.