FCC pushing forward with three-digit suicide prevention hotline similar to ‘911’

By | August 15, 2019

The Federal Communication Commission is one step closer to designating the number ‘988’ as a national suicide prevention number akin to how ‘911’ is used for emergencies.

The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economic Analytics in a Wednesday joint report to Congress recommended that there be a three-digit dialing code designated for suicide prevention and mental health crises.

The joint report notes that the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, funded by a branch of Health and Human Services, received more than two million calls last year. Data shows that the lifeline helped callers feel “significantly less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful by the end of calls.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that he plans to move forward with a rule-making proceeding in response to the recommendation, noting that a three-digit number would make access to the lifeline easier for people who feel suicidal.

“There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations, including our Veterans and LGBTQ youth,” Pai said. “Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives. This report recommends using a three-digit number to make it easier to access the critical suicide prevention and mental health services these call centers provide.”

President Trump signed the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act in 2018. The law directs the FCC to create a new line similar to 911.

The new hotline will have to undergo a public comment period and final FCC vote before it can begin to be implemented. The current lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.