FCC chair wants number like 911 for suicide prevention

988 would redirect to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Dave Cohen, WWL First News early edition
November 20, 2019 - 11:30 am

Officials hope that creating a simple to remember suicide prevention telephone number will help save lives.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed creating 988 as the new number for people to call.

“The suicide rate in the United States is at its highest level since World War II, and designating 988 as the suicide prevention and mental health hotline would be a major boost for our nation’s suicide prevention efforts,” Pai said.

Why 988?

The chairman explained, “When it comes to saving lives, time is of the essence, and we believe that 988 can be activated more quickly than other possible three-digit codes.  In addition, 988 has an echo of the 911 number we all know as an emergency number.  Awareness of this resource -including how memorable the number is- should make a real difference in saving lives.”

If approved, 988 would redirect to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The Commission will vote on this proposal at its December 12 public meeting.  

A news release outlines how it would work:

  • The Chairman’s proposal would designate 988 as the national 3-digit code. 
  • It would also require that all phone companies transmit all calls to 988 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • The Lifeline is a national network of 163 crisis centers that is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  
  • Calls to the Lifeline are routed from anywhere in the United States to the closest certified crisis center.  

The FCC says that in 2018, trained Lifeline counselors answered over 2.2 million calls and over 100,000 online chats.  

For more information on potential warning signs of suicide, click here...

RADIO.COM’s I’m Listening initiative aims to encourage those who are dealing with mental health issues to understand they are not alone. If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, know that someone is always there. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255. 

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