Do you know the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's number off the top of your head? Kudos if you do (it's 1-800-273-TALK), but understandable if you don't. Unfortunately, it's easier to remember Cellino & Barnes's number (1-800-888-8888). That's about to change. In a report published today, the Federal Communications Commission reveal that the process of designating the number 988 as a new, nationwide, three-digit hotline for suicide prevention and mental health crisis has officially begun.
There's an overwhelming amount of support for the shorter crisis number, the report says. (Paging r/HumansBeingBros.) And why wouldn’t there be? A shorter number is less effort to remember and to call, which will make it easier for those in distress to get the help they need. Those who call 988 would be directed to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network consisting of 163 crisis centers available 24/7.
“The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life, a suicide prevention nonprofit, told the Associated Press. “No one is embarrassed to call 911 for a fire or an emergency. No one should be embarrassed to call 988 for a mental health emergency.” Preach!
This proposition comes in response to the growing number of suicides that have occurred across the United States in the past 20 years. From 1999 to 2016, suicides have increased in every single state except Nevada, and there were 45,000 total deaths in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and the second most common cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 34.
“More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day and more than half a million LGBTQ youth will attempt suicide this year alone,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told AP. “A shorter, simpler suicide hotline number could be a game-changer.”
A study conducted between the years of 2003 and 2004 by the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University found that those who contacted a suicide hotline had significant decreases in suicidal thoughts during the course of their telephone session. Their feelings of hopelessness and psychological pain in the following weeks also decreased.
This new proposal will require all carriers to implement the number 988 as a national suicide prevention hotline within 18 months. The three-digit number won't be available for texting conversations, but Lines for Life offers a text service you can use by texting 273TALK to 839863.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.