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Calling the Suicide Hotline Will Soon Be Much Easier

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Government officials are making it easier for people struggling with mental health to get help.

Soon a suicide prevention hotline will be accessible by dialing only three digits, which the Federal Communications Commission determined would make it easier for individuals to remember what trying to get distressed people assistance.

Once implemented, the suicide prevention hotline will be reachable by dialing 988, similar to calling 911 for emergencies, 311 for municipal issues, or 411 for a white pages phone directory. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is currently reached by dialing 800-273-TALK, or 8255, a 10-digit number that connects callers to trained counselors stationed across 163 crisis centers. 

Counselors at the centers answered 2.2 million calls last year, according to the Associated Press. That number could potentially rise after the implementation of the new dial-in.

“The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life, a suicide prevention nonprofit, told the AP. “No one is embarrassed to call 911 for a fire or an emergency. No one should be embarrassed to call 988 for a mental health emergency."

People having suicide thoughts can often be helped by talking through what they’re experiencing, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The creation of the 988 number for suicide prevention number comes after a study conducted by the FCC concluded overwhelming support for it. A comment period will occur before the FCC moves to an order.

A law last year required the agency to conduct the study, as suicide rates over the past two decades have dramatically increased across the U.S., with half the country’s states seeing more than a 30% rise in such deaths during that period of time. From 1999 to 2016, suicides increased in every state except Nevada, the report said. It also said that suicide rates are higher with at-risk populations, including the LGBTQ community and for veterans.

The three-digit number will be solely for calling, though there are texting services available to people in need.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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