The FCC said Tuesday it will vote next month to designate 988 as the new three-digit U.S. nationwide number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
In a notice, the federal regulator overseeing U.S. internet and phone providers said it will vote on the proposal on July 16 to make the number change official. FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the three-digit number, if passed, “will save lives.”
Once approved, U.S. phone companies — including internet calling providers — will have two years to transition 988 calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Even after the transition, callers will still be able to reach the hotline through its regular phone number.
Lawmakers and advocates have spent years advocating to shorten the hotline’s 10-digit phone number to just three digits to make it easier for those in a mental health crisis to reach help. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
In December, the FCC voted unanimously to push ahead with the plans to issue the three-digit number, calling it an “echo” of 911, the national number to reach emergency services, recognizing the importance of easy access to the hotline.
Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, a non-profit dedicated to suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youths, welcomed the news.
“Suicide remains the second leading cause of death among young people, and LGBTQ youth are at increased risk,” said Briton. “Americans in crisis cannot wait. We also applaud the FCC’s continued support for specialized services for LGBTQ youth.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.