HEALTH

Misinformation spreads about new suicide prevention lifeline 988

Sep 6, 2022, 6:00 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:42 am
suicide 988...
Scene from Church video, "Sitting on the Bench: Thoughts on Suicide Prevention." (IRI)
(IRI)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah managers of the new suicide prevention lifeline, 988, say since its rollout — misinformation has spread about what happens when you call.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation about 988,” said Quality Improvement and Training Manager for Community Crisis Intervention and Support Services at Huntsman Mental Health, Amanda McNab.

Much of it, she said, has been around who answers when you call.

“The group that used to – and still does receive – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK, they are the group that’s answering 988.”

McNab admits that with 988 being rolled out nationally, a lot of different groups across a lot of different states may not all be getting the same information. And this is leading to different experiences for different callers. A recent report outlined concerns that have spread on social media.

“Honestly, my biggest concern (with the misinformation) is that people won’t use the service. That poeple won’t call when they need to call,” McNab said.

Law enforcement isn’t automatically dispatched

One big source of misinformation, McNab said, has to do with whether law enforcement is dispatched as soon as someone calls.

“This really isn’t true,” she said.

McNab thinks the confusion has to do with how much the 988 number has been compared to 911.

“Early on there was a lot of discussion about 988 being the 911 of mental health,” she said. “But there are a lot of differences.”

The traditional 911 is for medical emergencies, reaching police, fire, EMTs, or reporting a crime. A call to 911 will often end with help being dispatched.

“988 is to get a hold of your local mental health crisis services,” McNab said.

What happens when you call

In Utah, a trained crisis worker will answer. According to McNab, that person tries to focus on the problem that prompted the caller to contact 988.

McNab says law enforcement is only typically called in when a person may be an immediate threat to themselves, or someone else. A visit by police or other rescue workers is more likely if the caller has already acted on something.

“If someone calls and says, ‘I’ve already taken the medications,'” McNab said. Or, if someone discloses they’re actively near lethal means, like a weapon.

And that individual is not willing or capable — whatever verb you want to use — to create some safety for themselves.”

McNab says in those cases, police can help create a safety net to buy time.

The 988 learning curve

McNab says it’s “always possible” that a 988 crisis worker can misinterpret a caller. They may be expressing concerns for their own safety, suicidal thoughts, or ideations which may lead a crisis worker to believe the caller is at imminent risk — and erroneously send police.

“And … it became a very negative interaction for (the caller),” she said. “So (by telling their story on social media) they are letting everybody know.”

And McNab says, often we only hear those negative interactions.

“The more we focus in on when it goes wrong, the more information we’re going to get about how it always goes wrong,” she said.

“Instead of (focusing on) how less than 2% of the contacts and the calls that we get in Utah actually have law enforcement involved.”

Here’s help

If you or anyone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline.

Or call 1-800-273-TALK, or the Huntsman Mental Health Institute 1-801-583-2500.

Related reading:

 

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Health

A bill on transgender healthcare — banning transgender-related surgeries and puberty blockers for...
Eliza Pace, KSL TV and Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio

Utah Senate approves changes to transgender care bill, passes on to Gov. Cox

SB16 bans gender-confirming surgeries for minors and also places a moratorium on puberty blockers for minors.
3 days ago
Havasu Falls spills into the water pools below in Supai, Arizona, in October of 2016. Photo credit:...
Forrest Brown, CNN

Grand Canyon’s Havasu Falls to reopen to visitors after 3-year closure

 (CNN) — Havasu Falls, one of the most intriguing features of the Grand Canyon system, will be reopening to visitors after a three-year closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s with a catch. The reopening is scheduled for February 1; however, access will be limited initially to a certain, small group. People whose previous […]
3 days ago
White carnations representing each of the 1,746 unborn babies that were aborted in Utah in 2022 are...
Allessandra Harris and Simone Seikaly

Speeches, silence, during Pro-Life Utah memorial at the Capitol

About 100 people including Utah lawmakers and religious leaders attended the memorial on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
4 days ago
 A mental health clinic will reopen on Thursday after a carbon monoxide leak sent at least 17 peop...
Michael Locklear

Carbon monoxide poisoning at central Utah clinic hospitalizes 17 people

The Central Utah Counseling Center in Ephraim was evacuated a week ago after a problem with an old furnace was discovered.
5 days ago
a row of guns are pictured...
Mark Jones

KSL at Night: How do we solve gun violence?

KSL at Night hosts Taylor Morgan and Maura Carabello speak with Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council about gun violence.
6 days ago
Prescription opioid...
Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

Amazon launches $5-a-month unlimited prescription plan

Some of the generic drugs included in the program include Bupropion, Cephalexin, Doxycycline, Estradiol and Sertaline.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Misinformation spreads about new suicide prevention lifeline 988