A new phone number could help to make suicide prevention resources easier to access.
The FCC is currently considering a proposal to shorten the national suicide prevention hotline from a full 10-digit phone number to a new three-digit phone number – 988. Mississippi’s Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley sent a letter in support of the change to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“Any actions we can take to improve access to suicide prevention and crisis intervention services will save lives and give hope to our communities affected by these crises,” Commissioner Presley said in the letter.
In 2018, Congress passed and the President signed into law the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act. As part of that law, it required a study to determine the feasibility of “a simple, easy to remember, 3-digit dialing code” to connect users to suicide prevention and mental health crisis services. In December 2019, the FCC began proposing rules to implement the plans associated with the law and designate 988 as the official number.
“Suicide prevention and mental health issues affect so many of our families and communities,” Commissioner Presley said. “Giving those who are struggling to overcome thoughts of suicide or mental health issues an easy to remember, direct line to immediate help should be something we in government act on swiftly.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, where 988 calls will be directed, is a national network of 163 crisis centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, the Lifeline is available by calling 1-800-273-TALK and through online chats. In 2018, counselors that are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline answered over 2.2 million calls and over 100,000 online chats.