It’s official: The national suicide prevention hotline number is going to be shortened to three digits.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to change the phone number Thursday. Currently, the number is 10 digits, but the goal is to make the suicide and mental health hotline as easy to reach and as identifiable as 911.
Once the changes have been implemented, people will be able to contact the hotline by dialing 988, rather than the current number, 1-800-273-8255.
As the suicide death toll continues to rise — with more than 47,000 people dying by suicide in 2017 alone — accessibility is especially important. Proponents believe the new number will increase access and awareness.
“The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of the suicide prevention nonprofit Lines for Life, told the Associated Press.
The National Council for Behavioral Health has applauded the push to shorten the number in the past, calling it a “significant step forward in addressing the suicide crisis.”
In 2018 alone, suicide prevention counselors took more than 2.2 million calls and 100,000 online messages, according to the FCC. The hotline gets about 188,000 calls and 9,000 online chats per day, officials reported.
Rather, than change immediately, the number will take a few months to be set up.
Before that, there will be a public comment period, during which time people can submit their thoughts and suggestions on the change. For example, some have suggested using a different 3-digit number — like 611 — rather than 988.
A specific timeline for the comment period and number change has yet to be announced.