FCC approves 3-digit help number for suicide prevention, to launch in 2022

A three-digit phone number for people who are suicidal or otherwise in crisis, similar to 911 for other emergencies, received final approval from the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

The number 988 will be designated as the number that will connect callers to crisis counselors after its launch in 2022. Until the three-digit number is functional, people should continue to use 1-800-273-8255.

“We believe the introduction of 988 will be a breakthrough in suicide prevention and a powerful public statement that reduces stigma: struggling with mental health is a fact of life, and it’s okay to need urgent help,” said Dwight Holton, Lines for Life CEO. “People will be able to reach out quickly and easily, which will in turn save lives.”

Portland-based Lines for Life operates several helplines and is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.

“Lines for Life reports that its counselors can de-escalate 95% of suicide-related phone calls without the intervention of emergency services,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This is why the FCC’s action today is so important.”

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