New national suicide hotline falling victim to social media trolls

The National Crisis and Suicide Lifeline is meant to help people during a time of distress, but the hotline is now falling victim to internet trolls.

It all started with social media posts that said if you call the hotline, to be cautious of what you say, as some of the posts making the rounds also claim that police will be called no matter what.

Officials at 9-8-8 said that isn't true.


"When people call 988, they are getting a public health response, not a public safety response," said Dr. John Draper, Executive Director of 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

The message on Instagram said the therapists and counselors that answer the calls for the suicide crisis and lifeline number are the police.

The hotline says in less than 2-percent of all the calls, texts, and chats, emergency services are required because the call taker feels someone will die if they don't get emergency services.

And in half of those cases, people aren't willing to tell the counselors where they are or what's going on with them.

"They are just saying, 'I'm going to die' or they're unable to engage with us and collaborate with us in some way. And we believe that if we don't act in that situation they're going to die. So at that point, we don't have any choice other than to call 911," said Dr. Draper.

Draper said the majority of the callers are helped without emergency intervention.

With the new 988 number, there are some real challenges. Just one in five in-state calls were answered at Illinois area call centers in the first three months of 2022. The other 80% were redirected to other states. Illinois has the lowest in-state answer rate in the nation, lagging far behind others.

When asked about how many people are manning the phones, Dr. Draper says they’ve hired people but couldn’t give an exact number.

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (tel:18002738255). Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line)

CLICK HERE for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.