Dialing Into Mental Health Support

Dialing Into Mental Health Support

Three weeks before the launch of 988, a new three-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health came to us seeking help for an informational campaign to spread awareness. A few weeks later, we delivered creative work that matched their vision and contributed to the local rollout of this vital mental health resource. So, what is 988? Why is it important? And how did we help answer the call for behavioral health care in Fresno County? We’re reflecting on all that and more in this month’s AM Win!

What is 988?

To begin, we learned that 988 was part of a solution to bridge the suicide and mental health crisis care gap in emergency services nationwide. The new three-digit number does not replace the pre-existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), but it builds on the original Lifeline established in 2005. However, shortening the number makes this life-saving resource easier to remember in times of crisis. (1)

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “About 2 million times each year, people with serious mental illness are booked into jails” for committing non-violent, minor offenses. (2) By strengthening the behavioral health care network, 988 helps reduce the reliance on law enforcement in the community to evaluate mental health crises, instead using trained counselors to make those assessments.

Those trained counselors working for our local Lifeline here in the Central Valley can:

  • Activate a mobile mental health crisis team that will arrive on site;
  • Provide therapeutic interventions; and/or
  • Make referrals for outpatient services or transportation for further evaluation.

Lastly, “Numerous studies of Lifeline calls have shown that the majority of callers were significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor.” (3)

Words Matter

Knowing that words matter to people in emotional crises, we walked through each step of the creative development with our client and a subject matter expert from the local call center. This collaboration helped us stay on target and provided valuable insight into how our work would impact real people in real situations.

With all that in mind, we created a concept that shines a spotlight on what’s truly important in this campaign: the three-digit number. To do so, we animated each of the three numbers to express the emotions that one might feel when they finally decide to reach out for help, making our simple design connect with our audience on a deeper level.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes of our first design pitch:

The Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health was happy with the concept. However, we slightly tweaked the color palette and fonts to match the 988 brand guide. So, here is a glimpse at our final product:

While our creative matched the look and feel of the nationwide 988 messaging, we were able to create materials that were entirely new and tailored specifically for our community in Fresno County. It has been a joy to have played a role in this campaign, working alongside the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health to strengthen this network and mental health support.

Daisy De Leon, Account Manager


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/988-appropriations-report.pdf
  2. https://nami.org/Advocacy/Policy-Priorities/Stopping-Harmful-Practices/Criminalization-of-People-with-Mental-illness#:~:text=People%20with%20mental%20illness%20are,%25%20held%20in%20local%20jails)
  3. https://988lifeline.org/by-the-numbers/