FCC to Designate 988 as National Suicide Hotline at its July Meeting – Implementation by July 16, 2022

At its July meeting the FCC will designate “988” as the 3-digit number to reach the Suicide Lifeline, and require all telecommunications carriers, interconnected voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, and one-way VoIP providers (together, “covered providers”) to make any network changes necessary to ensure that users can dial 988 to reach the Lifeline by July 16, 2022.

This is in response to the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, which required the FCC to examine the technical feasibility of designating a simple, easy-to-remember, 3-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.  The new 3 digital system will ultimately replace the “1- 800- 273-TALK” National Suicide prevention hotline.

The FCC explains the need for the new three digit system. The number of suicides in this country is staggering:

“Rapid access to suicide prevention and mental health crisis intervention services has never been more critical for Americans. Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans in 2018, resulting in about one death every 11 minutes. Suicide also disproportionately impacts various at-risk populations. For instance, more than 20 Veterans die by suicide every day. LGBTQ young adults, ages 18 to 25, contemplate suicide at a rate almost four times higher than heterosexual young adults, and last year it was estimated that more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth would attempt suicide. By 2015, suicide rates among teenage girls hit a 40-year high, and between 1999 and 2014, the rate of suicide committed by girls ages 10 to 14 tripled. A 2019 study found that self-reported suicide attempts among African-American teens increased by 73% between 1991 and 2017. And a 2020 study showed that college students who are deaf or hard of hearing are twice as likely to consider or attempt suicide than students without hearing loss. Suicide rates are also higher in rural America and among Native Americans.”

To see a copy of the FCC’s proposed decision click HERE.

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