Today marks the implementation of 988, the three-digit national dialing, texting, and chat code crisis hotline for anyone expreinceing suicidal thoughts or mental health-related crisises. The dialing code lifeline will increase accessibility to life-saving interventions and resources. Suicide accounts for nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. Most people who attempt suicide do not die—unless they use a gun.
988 is funded through the Biden-Harris Administration’s $432 million investment in mental health services, funding from the Department of Health and Humans Services workforce provided by the American Rescue plan, and $150 million secured through the historic Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which President Joe Biden signed in June 2022.
The hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential services. The 988 dispatch system routes the dialer to a trained crisis counselor available based on their zip code – similar to the 911 dispatch system.
Everytown’s implementation priorities include:
- Ensuring every call is answered, preferably by a local crisis center,
- Counselors are trained on lethal means safety counseling and provide information about gun access interventions, and
- States and territories are prepared and have the resources to transition to 988
Six out of every 10 gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides, resulting in an average of 64 deaths a day, and guns are the most lethal method of suicide. Additionally, access to a firearm also triples the risk of suicide.
The deep economic downturn caused by COVID-19, combined with the millions of guns already in homes and the millions more being purchased, created a volatile mix that has exacerbated the risk of firearm suicide. Researchers continue to be worried about the surge of gun sales, the number of unsecured firearms at home, and the ongoing stress and anxiety of our communities— especially among young people and veterans whose rates of gun suicide have risen over the past decade. New research by Everytown Support Fund shows that gun suicide among young people, particularly in communties of color, are at an all-time high.
A recent survey from the Center for Disease Control showed more than 4 in 10 teens reported they feel “persistently sad or hopeless,” and 1 in 5 saying “they have contemplated suicide.” The survey builds on calls from experts ringing the alarm about mental health for young people. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, saying that its members were “caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, and their communities.”
For years, Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks have been working with gun suicide survivors and advocating for proven solutions to prevent gun suicide including extreme risk laws, legislation and programs that promote secure firearm storage such as Be SMART, public awareness about the risk posed by guns in the home and how to mitigate those risks, and resources to prevent this tragedy in all communities.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
You may also contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides trained crisis counseling services over text 24/7. Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US crisistextline.org.
Starting today, you can also call or text 988 to be connected with a crisis counselor.
More information about gun suicide is available here. To speak with an expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.