In a unanimous vote, the five members of the Federal Communications Commission approved plans to establish a three-digit phone number for suicide prevention.
The new three-digit number – 988 – will make it easier for those in crisis to reach suicide prevention experts and help reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues.
“988 has an echo of the 911 number we all know as an emergency number,” Chairman Ajit Pai said at the commission’s meeting. “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.”
A report by the FCC released in August called for specialized services for LGBTQ youth, veterans, and other populations at high risk.
Based on a survey of more than 34,000 respondents, a 2019 study by The Trevor Project found 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the previous twelve months.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2017 suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.
CNN reports the proposal calls for an 18-month timeline which will give phone companies time to implement the 988 number. The time period also allows for public comment on whether it will take more time to do so or if it can be done earlier.
Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, said in a press release, “The Trevor Project applauds the FCC for unanimously approving the proposal to adopt 988 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.”
“Shortening the Lifeline number to three digits, along with transferring calls to those who can best serve high-risk populations like LGBTQ youth — who are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers — will save lives,” added Briton. “It is critically important that this proposal is implemented as swiftly as possible and that all Lifeline counselors are provided with LGBTQ cultural competency training to best serve LGBTQ youth in crisis.”
Until the new phone number is up and running, those in crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.