US government proposes new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline

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NEW YORK — With suicides on the rise , the U.S. government wants to make the national crisis hotline easier to reach.

Once implemented, people will just need to dial 988 to seek help. Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255). Callers are routed to one of 163 crisis centers, where counselors answered 2.2 million calls last year.

A law passed last year required the Federal Communications Commission to study assigning a three-digit number for suicide prevention, like 911 for emergencies or 311 for city services. The FCC said in a Wednesday report that there is “overwhelming support” for a three-digit number because it would be easier for distressed people to get help.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he intends to start the months-long process to make that happen.

Anything that makes it easier for people having suicidal thoughts — and their loved ones — to reach out for assistance is good, said Dr. Lynn Bufka, an associate executive director at the American Psychological Association. “There’s no way most of them are going to remember the 800 numbers. 988 makes it much easier to remember.”

Posted in News/Announcements.