At a 988 Call Center, Volunteers Embrace a New Number while Providing Familiar Hope

August 19, 2022

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


As the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline expands crisis services nationwide, the important work of call center staff is becoming even more critical. The Lifeline is made up of more than 200 independent call centers that answer calls to 988 as well as their own local numbers. These centers are operated by staff and volunteers who are trained to defuse intense emotions over the phone and connect callers in acute crisis with mental health support. In many cases, callers just need an empathic ear and do not require additional support. “For the vast majority of callers, the call is the intervention in itself, and that’s what’s so powerful about the Lifeline,” said Colleen Carr, director of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. When callers are in acute crisis, call-takers work with them to determine the best next steps, such as referring them to mental health services or sending an in-person mobile crisis unit. Police are rarely involved in responding to calls, and only a small fraction require emergency services without the caller’s consent, according to Eileen Davis, director of Call2Talk in Framingham, Massachusetts.

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