Federal government creates 3-digit suicide prevention hotline

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBT) — A bipartisan effort co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to create a three-digit suicide prevention hotline was signed into law this week by President Donald Trump.

Baldwin announced Tuesday that the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which she introduced along with three Republican Senators, Cory Gardner, Jerry Moran and Jack Reed, has directed the Federal Communications Commission to create a 9-8-8 line for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Currently, the hotline is accessible by the 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255.

“In America, we lose about 45,000 people every year to suicide, including more than 6,100 veterans, making it one of the leading causes of death in this country,” said Baldwin. “We need to do everything we can to prevent suicide and that means improving the tools we have to help people who are suffering from depression or other mental health concerns. I’m very proud our bipartisan legislation has finally been signed into law, so we can make it as quick and easy as possible for Americans in crisis to get the help and support they need through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line. I urge the Federal Communications Commission to move expeditiously to implement this change and get 9-8-8 up and running.”

The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line are 10-digits, which is a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act directs the FCC to designate 9-8-8 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and allows veterans to press “1” after dialing 9-8-8 to be routed automatically to the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support. Death by suicide is a severe problem in the veteran community with about 17 veterans committing suicide every day, on average.

In 2017, in Wisconsin for example, one out of every five people who died by suicide was a veteran.

“As the first explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive bill to ever unanimously pass the House and Senate, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 not only makes history, but will also undoubtedly save countless lives,” said Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, in a statement. “Our research shows that 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past twelve months. This legislation addresses this crisis by requiring – for the first time – specialized services for LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project is grateful to Senators Gardner and Baldwin and commends their leadership in championing the expansion of vital suicide prevention resources.”

Until the FCC finalizes the technical implementation of 9-8-8 as the nationwide number, anyone seeking help should still call 1-800-273-8255.

To get help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.