A National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now one U.S. Presidential signature away from becoming a reality.
Congress has recently passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. Republican Representative Chris Stewart from Utah, who pushed the House version of the bill, celebrated the Senate version getting final approval by the House and being sent to the White House, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“This easy-to-remember hotline will save lives,” Stewart said to the House after working on the shortened hotline number for four years. “If you are in the middle of a mental health crisis, you need to know who to call. The problem is no one knows the number. The second problem is the number is different. If you are calling in Salt Lake City, it is a different number than if you are calling in New York.”
“Dialing 988 is going to get you help,” he added. “It’s going to immediately give you someone to talk with, and in special cases when intervention is necessary, give you that resource as well.”
This soon-to-be-official shortened lifeline has been a long time coming. According to EdgeMediaNetwork, the Federal Communications Commission was tasked with holding a study in 2018. That study looked into whether creating a three-digit number for suicide prevention would be beneficial to U.S. citizens and officials. The results came with both good and bad feedback such as easier access to help for people having suicidal thoughts or the eventual rise in resource and money demand due to the increase in people calling in.
In the end, a bill was created to establish a three-digit hotline number, 988. The Senate approved the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in May. According to a press release from the Trevor Project, this is the first LGBTQ +-inclusive measure to pass both the Senate and House by a unanimous vote. As for that LGBTQ+-inclusivity, the bill has sections requiring LGBTQ+ cultural competency training for all lifeline counselors and creating a voice response option offering specialized care for LGBTQ+ youth, and other high-risk groups.
“This passage is a historic victory, as this is the first explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive bill to pass unanimously in history — and 988 will undoubtedly save countless lives,” Sam Brinton, the Trevor Project’s vice president of advocacy and government affairs, said. “According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 40 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered it. This vital legislation will require the Lifeline to provide specialized services for LGBTQ youth and other high-risk groups, and make it so much easier for millions of Americans to find support in moments of crisis. We express our sincere gratitude to Congressmen Moulton and Stewart for their leadership in championing the expansion of suicide prevention resources.”
“Taken together, this represents a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention and awareness, and we are proud that the House voted overwhelmingly today to pass such important legislation during National Suicide Prevention Month,” said a statement issued by House Committee and Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo, and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle.