As a Crisis Hotline Grows, So Do Fears It Won’t Be Ready

“Thousands of users, many of whom may be in a suicidal crisis, are seeking help and failing to get the life-saving help they deserve,” the report says.

According to another recent government report, approximately 4 percent of Lifeline callers are in imminent danger or are actively attempting suicide, while another 23 percent suicidal thoughts within 24 hours of the call. Many of them call again, and data shows that call centers can resolve about 80 percent of crises without further intervention, such as sending the police.

Researchers say that when Lifeline can work—when it works as intended—it works because it empowers people to talk through their toughest moments.

Her assessment is in line with the feedback many callers have shared on social media. One said the consultant talked her out of “come down the ledge.” Another wrote: “This line has saved my life several times, including tonight.”

In December, the Biden administration authorized a one-time influx of $282 million to upgrade infrastructure and strengthen call centers, bringing many others online. Historically, Lifeline’s core operations have been funded annually by the federal government, most recently receiving $24 million in 2021. Each of the call centers, whose staff can cost millions of dollars a year, receives an annual federal stipend of between $2,500 and $5,000. as well as the occasional larger grant, but they mostly raise funding on their own.

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