What just happened? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted to make “988” the official three-digit number to dial to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. From July 16, 2022, all telecommunications carriers in the US will be required to forward 988 calls to the existing hotline number, 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).
The FCC said the existing number will remain operational during and after the transition.
According to data cited by the FCC, suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death in the US since 2008 and claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans in 2018. Last year, the FCC proposed establishing 988 as an easy-to-remember number – like the “911” for suicide prevention and mental health services.
FCC commissioners unanimously voted to approve the measure.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said July 2022 was the “earliest technically feasible date for nationwide implementation,” adding that they rejected calls for a longer implementation period. “The record reflects that we can get this done in two years, and the importance of the issue suggests we must get it done by then. It is literally a lifeline,” Pai said.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel believes the agency should have been even more ambitious in its approach.
“Right now, the FCC lacks a plan to incorporate the ability to text into the number we established today. But as we confront the rise in suicide by teenagers across the country, we should acknowledge that texting is their primary form of communication,” Rosenworcel added.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is comprised of roughly 170 crisis centers that receive local and state as well as public and private funding.