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FCC recommends a separate 3-digit phone number for national suicide prevention hotline

The agency argues that dialing "988" would be easier to do and remember in a time of crisis.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Editor's note: The above video is from a KING 5 story on the 2019 World Suicide Prevention Day. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  has released a report to Congress, calling for them to create and approve a three-digit phone number that will be used solely as a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. 

The report, mandated by the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, argues that Lifeline could be more effective in preventing suicides if it were accessible via a simple, easy-to-remember number. 

The current number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The new proposed phone number would be "988." It is not currently assigned as an area code.

According to the report, the 988 number could be implemented more easily and quickly than repurposing an existing 3-digit N11 number like 611 or 511. 

SEE ALSO: Dupont Veteran walks over 3,000 miles to raise awareness of veteran suicide and PTSD

“There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations, including our Veterans and LGBTQ youth,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives.  This report recommends using a three-digit number to make it easier to access the critical suicide prevention and mental health services these call centers provide.  I intend to move forward on this recommendation.  In the meantime, my heart goes out to anyone facing a crisis.  I hope they will contact 1-800-273-TALK for support today.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017 and more than 1.4 million adults attempted suicide in that year. 

From 1999 to 2016, suicide increased in 49 of the 50 states, and in more than half of those states, the increase was greater than 20%, according to the CDC.

The idea is in the proposal stage. 

The next step for the FCC is to launch a rulemaking proceeding. The rulemaking would collect further public comment from interested stakeholders on the findings in the report.

A copy of the report was provided to several House and Senate Committees. 

SEE ALSO: After brother's suicide, woman devotes career to fighting stigma

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