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August 15, 2019

FCC proposes three-digit phone number for suicide prevention hotline

Commission recommends the use of '9-8-8' for faster crisis response

Mental Health Suicide Prevention
988 Suicide Hotline 08152019 Staff/PhillyVoice


Following the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, the Federal Communications Commission was tasked with determining the feasibility and benefits of a three-digit suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline to supplement or replace the current 10-digit number.

It was announced Thursday that after an analysis, the FCC has found merit in the three-digit number and is recommending the use of 9-8-8, the National Review reports.

The FCC believes the shorter phone number "would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources,” Engadget reports.

RELATED READ: New Jersey launches nation's first state program to prevent police officer suicide

Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, has said the commission plans to begin steps to institute the three-digit number which will function just as the 10-digit hotline does, with Lifeline counselors prepared to field calls and online chats.

“There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations, including our veterans and LGBTQ youth," Pai told Engadget. "Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives.”

According to the most recent data, U.S. suicide rates are at the highest they’ve been since World War II. Time reports that 14 out of every 100,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017 — a 33 percent increase from 1999.

The hope is that the shorter – and easier to remember – hotline number will lead to more calls and speedier assistance to those in need.

Those in mental crisis can dial 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). 

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