From a young age, everyone knows the three digits to call in an emergency: 9-1-1. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it’s even catchy.
But what number are we to call during a personal crisis? Currently, it’s 1-800-273-8255. Not the most memorable number around, and certainly not one that would be easy to recall amid an emergency mental health situation.
The Federal Communications Commission has started moving forward with efforts to streamline the National Suicide Prevention Hotline that “would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources,” according to the staff recommendation made in August.
In mid-December, the FCC unanimously voted to approve the proposal of a three-digit number, 988, to reach the hotline, and to start the rule-making process. The proposal was open for public comment for 60 days, which ended on Feb. 13.
“988 has an echo of the 911 number we all know as an emergency number. And we believe that this three-digit number dedicated for this purpose will help ease access to crisis services, it will reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health conditions, and ultimately it will save lives,” Chairman Ajit Pai said during the FCC’s open December meeting.
According to WQAD-8, the proposal requires carriers to implement 988 as a national suicide prevention hotline within an 18-month time frame. The FCC is asking for input on “all aspects of implementation,” including whether less or more time is needed.
The FCC’s announcement received plenty of praise, including from Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah. He called it “another important step to provide critical resources to address mental health and suicide in our state and country,” in a statement following the report.
“This will save lives,” said Stewart.
Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life, a suicide prevention nonprofit, called the number a “breakthrough.”
Some are even calling it a “warmline” rather than a hotline, because it provides mental health help before a crisis heats up.
“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,” Holton said.
988 is expected to become readily available in late 2021, and will redirect callers to a national network of 163 crisis centers available at 1-800-273-TALK and online, according to the FCC.
Are you having thoughts of suicide? Please be aware of the resources below:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741
Veterans Crisis Line, text 838255
National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE
For BU students, visit the Center for Counseling and Human Development in Warren Student Services Center, Room 240, call 570-389-4255, or TAPLINE at 1-800-222-9016 for after-hours emergencies.
*If you are experiencing an emergency, always call 911.*