In 2018, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act was signed into law. It was designed to create better efforts and initiatives surrounding the hotline, like studying the use of a three-digit dialing number for the hotline instead of what it is currently: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
From a 2019 report it was found that the cost of establishing a three-digit emergency number for suicide crises would be huge; an estimated $570 million in the first year and $175 million in the second year. Those costs include creating a call center and a public awareness campaign. Though the cost was massive, it was concluded that the benefits of this would far outweigh the cost. Because of it, more lives would be saved.
The FCC (Federal Communications Committee) voted to designate 988 as the national suicide prevention hotline. The new number will connect any caller to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7. The new change will be in full effect by July 16, 2022. All telecommunications carriers and interconnected and one-way Voice over Internet Protocol service providers are required to do this too. However, the original hotline number will still be available for callers to use.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and that in 2018 there were 48,344 suicides and 1.4 million suicide attempts. They estimated 132 suicides each day. There was a shocking increase in the last 6 months due to the covid-19 pandemic and country lockdown. According to the CDC 1 in 4 young people considered suicide during the pandemic. They also found an uptick in anxiety and substance abuse, for than 40% of the people surveyed say they felt a mental health change and condition because of covid-19.
The bipartisan bill designed to help those struggling will be a great benefit to all. The FCC released a press release that said, “Establishing the easy-to-remember 988 as the “911” for suicide prevention and mental health services will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues.” This is a great initiative on all sides and will help so many. Suicide has taken far too many lives already, this is a step in the right direction to stop that from happening.
For help and information for you or a loved one regarding suicide and mental health services, please visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.