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FCC Votes to Create Three-Digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Suicide ranks among the top ten leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.

That could soon change, now that the Federal Communications Commission has voted to make dialing a life-saving hotline as easy as calling 911.

Currently, suicide help typically comes in the form of contacting a loved one or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is 800-273-8255.

However, the FCC just adopted new rules that will soon make that hotline just three digits.

Dialing 988 will instantly connect callers with trained counselors at local crisis centers.

The new hotline is expected to be available in two years, in order to give the telecom industry time to comply and reconfigure networks.

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, says, “It’s a game changer. And I think it’s intuitive for most people that now when you dial an emergency, every child knows that number, 911, of course that’s what you dial.”

Suicide rates in the U.S. have risen in the past two decades.

According to the CDC, more than 48,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. in 2018. In addition, there was a 35 percent increase in the rate of suicides from 1999 to 2018.

Bob Gebbia, president of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says there are multiple factors behind the rise.

“There’s generally an underlying mental health condition, anxiety, depression, substance use, with a combination of life events and stressors that, for many, can become overwhelming,” he explains.