On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules to establish 988 as the new, nationwide, easy-to-remember 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.
Texting will be able to access suicide hotline help
This week, U.S. communications regulators will require that phone companies allow people to text as well as call a new “988” number for the suicide-prevention hotline. In recognition of the changing trend in technology use by youth, texting 988 will also be a way to reach the hotline. This would also benefit those who are deaf, have hearing loss or speech disabilities.
According to FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, “For millions of us, especially young people and those with disabilities — they are more likely to text than they are to call when they are in crisis. The bottom line is it should not matter when you make a voice call or send a text message, because we should connect people in crisis to the resources they need, no matter how they communicate.”
Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255), which routes calls to about 170 crisis centers. Phone companies have until July 2022 to implement the 988 number for both calling and texting. The FCC said Thursday that the country’s largest cellphone companies already support calling 988. The implementation of a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline comes as suicide is a growing public health problem in the United States, with risk factors compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is estimated that nearly 6,000 Americans call the Lifeline on an average day. The most recent report (2020) by the National Center for Health Statistics, describes more than 45,000 suicide deaths in the US. While there was an overall decrease in suicides by 3% from 2019 to 2020 — suicide rates increased for non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native, and Hispanic men, according to the NCHS report
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