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FCC to establish 988 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting in 2022
Do you think 988 will be a more accessible number for the suicide prevention lifeline?
By Eric Revell, Countable News
What’s the story?
- September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and this summer saw the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finalize a plan to make 988 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline starting on July 16, 2022.
- President Donald Trump signed the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act into law in August 2018, which directed the FCC to examine the feasibility of designating a three-digit dialing code — like 911 — for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system.
- In August 2019, the FCC released a report recommending the designation of 988 as the 3-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline because it “would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources;” in part because 988 hasn’t been designated as an area code.
- While the FCC rulemaking process was ongoing, Congress considered the issue but didn’t enact any legislation on the issue. The Senate passed Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) bill to designate 988 as the national suicide hotline in May 2020, but the bill was held at the desk in the House and hasn’t been considered in the lower chamber. For its part, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed Rep. Chris Stewart’s (R-UT) companion bill on a voice vote, but the bill didn’t reach the floor.
- The FCC voted to approve the final 988 plan on July 16, 2020, with 988’s first day of availability two years later. Following the vote, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement which read in part:
“Unfortunately, suicide affects an ever-increasing number of Americans’ lives. Our nation’s suicide rate is at its highest point since World War II. In 2018 alone, suicide claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans, or about one death every 11 minutes. Many more think about or attempt suicide. In 2018, almost 11 million adults in the United States seriously thought about suicide and over 3 million made a plan for it… Establishing the easy-to-remember 988 as the “911” for suicide prevention and mental health services will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need. Indeed, experts predict that it will result in millions more Americans receiving the intervention services they desperately need. And when more Americans receive these services, we know that more lives will be saved.”
What are the current numbers?
- The current phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). The FCC said that number received 2 million calls in 2018.
- In 2017, 47,173 people in the United States died by suicide.
- Globally, someone dies every 40 seconds by suicide.
If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, know you’re not alone. Confidential help is available for free at 1-800-273-8255. Or chat online here.
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Wacharaphong)
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