Frequently Asked QuestionsAccording to the Feds, a cyberattack shut down the US 988 Mental...

According to the Feds, a cyberattack shut down the US 988 Mental Health Helpline

Federal officials confirmed that a cyberattack in December 2022 was to blame for the almost 24-hour outage of the US’s 988 mental health helpline, the Associated Press reported on Friday, February 3.

Legislators are now looking for methods to prevent attacks like this from occurring in the future, especially for a vital, life-saving service like 988.

Sally, a volunteer, listens to a caller at Embrace, a suicide prevention helpline, in the Lebanese capital Beirut on July 13, 2018. – In Lebanon, mental health and suicide have long been deeply taboo subjects, with both major religions in the tiny country — Islam and Christianity — condemning taking one’s own life.

Unusable on December 1

According to Danielle Bennett, a spokesman for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the audio calling component of the 988 Lifeline will no longer work as of December 1, 2022, due to a cybersecurity compromise.
Last month, an attack on the network of the company Intrado, which provides telecommunications services for the hotline, occurred.

According to SAMHSA, the breach has been reported to law enforcement, and Intrado is looking into it with the aid of a third-party assessor.

The national 988 phone number has become a lifeline for millions of Americans in need of mental health support, receiving millions of calls in the first six months since its launch in July.

The system is designed to work similarly to 911; there is a standard, straightforward number that anyone may call in an emergency to speak with a live operator who is available around-the-clock.

On December 1, however, people in need of assistance could not access text or chat services.

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New Bill

A bill calling for improved communication and reporting on intrusions on the 988 lifeline was put forth last week by California representatives Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat, and Jay Obernolte, a Republican.

Rep. Obernolte stated in a news release that “even a few hours’ interruption of the national suicide hotline can cost American lives.”

“It’s crucial that we take actions to address cybersecurity flaws that could endanger the hotline in order to reduce the likelihood of such service interruptions.”
By amending the law, the 9-8-8 Lifeline Cybersecurity Responsibility Act enables the 9-8-8 programme to request more information and report on any cybersecurity flaws inside the 9-8-8 lifeline in order to reduce future breaches and prevent service outages.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 130 people commit suicide each day in the United States.In 2020, a suicide death occurred every 11 minutes, according to the latest current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.

Veterans had a 57.3% higher suicide rate than non-veterans in 2020. For veterans under 45, suicide was also the second-leading cause of death.

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