FCC Supports “988” Suicide Prevention Hotline as Deaths Increase

With the suicide rate on the rise across the country, the U.S. government has a plan that would make it easier for callers to reach the national crisis hotline.

When that plan is implemented, people will simply need to dial 988 to seek help, rather than the traditional number the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline currently uses, (800) 273-TALK (8255). Callers are then routed to one of 163 crisis centers.

A law passed last year requiring the Federal Communications Commission to study the potential need for assigning a three-digit number for suicide prevention. The FCC stated in a report last Wednesday that it found “overwhelming support” for a three-digit number.

Suicide rates have increased nationwide over the past 20 years, and by more than 30 percent in half of the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 45,000 reported suicide deaths in 2016.

The new number would likely increase the call volume to the crisis centers, which would require an additional $50 million a year to handle operating expenses, the FCC says.

According to Dr. Lynn Bufka, an associate executive director at the American Psychological Association, “These kinds of hotlines need to be well supported and well funded. Let’s make sure we’ve got the resources in place to really be able to respond.”