By Rick Bass
• Suicide prevention is a critical need. Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide claimed the lives of more than 44,000 Americans in 2020, and evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated suicidal thoughts and actions.
• Individuals who need help can find it by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats. Veterans and Service members may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing 988, as well as by chatting online at www.veteranscrisisline.net or texting 838255.
• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of more than 200 local and
state-funded crisis centers. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse
and Mental Health Services Administration administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,
in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which manages the Veterans Crisis Line.
• Covered text providers must support texting to 988 by directing text messages sent to 988 to
the Lifeline. Covered text providers include CMRS providers and providers of interconnected
text messaging services that enable consumers to send text messages to and receive text messages from all, or substantially all, text-capable U.S. telephone numbers, including through the use of applications downloaded or otherwise installed on mobile phones.
• Service Members, Veterans, and their families may reach the Veterans Crisis Line now and
continuing after July 16, 2022 by calling 988 (press 1) or texting 838255, or through an online chat portal on the Veterans Crisis Line’s website, www.veteranscrisisline.net.
• The requirement to direct calls and texts sent to 988 to the National Suicide Prevention
Hotline took effect on July 16, 2022. The transition time gave phone companies and
covered text providers time to make necessary network changes. It additionally provided time for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to prepare for a likely increase in the volume of calls and texts following the launch.
• The adoption of these rules reflects a commitment to delivering individuals necessary
intervention services. Switching to an easy-to-remember 988 will make it easier for individuals
in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental
health issues. To learn more, visit https://www.fcc.gov/suicide-prevention-hotline.
On a personal note: In my 22 years experience as a suicide prevention specialist and crisis counselor, the 988 number is a critical resource in saving lives. I called the new “988” National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and my experience with those who responded to my research call were professional and timely. They are part of our essential “first responders” prioritizing valuable life-saving help with compassion and competency. If someone you know may be in need of the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, please provide the “988” number to them or call on their behalf. Resources and professional services to prevent life-threatening behavior will be provided to all who are in need of a caring voice and compassionate help – all lives matter!
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