FCC approves 988 as new suicide prevention hotline number

On Thursday, Dec. 12, the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to proceed with an effort to establish the number 988 as a way to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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National News graphic; Nordic News circa 2018-2019. Graphic utilized in print. Art by Aditi Jain

Eli Shafer, Co-Business Manager

 

On Thursday, Dec. 12, the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to proceed with an effort to establish the number 988 as a way to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This action is the first step in the 18-month-long process to make the Lifeline more accessible.

The Lifeline consists of 161 call centers that provide 24/7 support for anyone in need of mental health-related help. Currently, the Lifeline can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255.

The proposal’s advocates say that 988 will become an easily-remembered number that people can go to when in need of help, like 911 is for many emergencies. They hope that by shortening the number and increasing awareness of it, more people will reach the help they need. However, opposers of this effort say that the crisis centers are already struggling to keep up with the current volume of calls, and that an increase in calls will be overwhelming and decrease the quality of help to those who need it. 

The proposal is currently awaiting comments on all aspects of its implementation. In 2017, the number of suicides in the U.S. reached over 47,000, which was the highest it has been since World War II. Because of this issue, the government has started taking action such as this to attempt to lower the U.S. suicide rate.