If you ask any American what to call during an emergency, they will tell you 911. But if you ask Americans what the suicide hotline number is, most won’t have an answer.
To rectify this, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a three-digit suicide hotline, 988. The idea is that it will make mental health support more accessible while de-stigmatizing the act of seeking mental health resources.
All five members of the FCC unanimously approved the new hotline last week and will require phone providers to implement the new number within 18 months.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and has increased by 33 percent in the past 20 years. The pandemic has only exacerbated mental health struggles for many people and emphasized the need for better access to mental health resources. Commission member Jessica Rosenworcel is urging the FCC to go even further and make the number accessible by text as well as call.
The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. It is run by a network of 163 crisis centers across the US, with the 911 number being used for emergencies. Emergency responders hope that a more direct suicide hotline will also take the pressure off 911 operators who aren’t as well equipped to handle mental health crises.
For Americans without adequate health insurance, accessing mental health resources is difficult. This problem is made worse by the social stigmatization of mental health issues. Creating a three-digit hotline for suicide prevention normalizes the need to seek mental health help and makes it more accessible for those in crisis.
You can contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741.
Young people in need of help can call Kids Help Phone on 1-800-668-6868.