December 16, 2019
Do you know the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number (1-800-273-TALK) off the top of your head? Chances are, you don’t—and that could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency, Refinery 29 reports.
Unfortunately, such dial-or-die moments are increasing in the United States: From 1999 through 2016, the number of suicides increased in every single state except Nevada—and there were 45,000 total self-inflicted deaths in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, suicide is currently is the tenth leading cause of death in America, and the second most common cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 34.
But now, the Federal Communications Commission is stepping up to help those in need to get help before it’s too late, says Refinery 29. Soon, reaching out for rescue will be as simple and intuitive as dialing 911 for help from police or fire professionals.
In a report published on December 13, the FCC reveals 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. And why wouldn’t there be? A shorter number takes 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.”
“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, Refinery 29 reports. 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.
Research contact: @Refinery29