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FCC debuts 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The Federal Communications Commission last week began requiring phone companies and text messaging providers to route all calls and text messages to 988 to the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

The upshot is as of July 16, folks are now able to connect with the former National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) from any phone by calling or texting 988 for 24/7 confidential support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health related distress. They may also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

Additionally, veterans can press 1 after dialing 988 to connect directly to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline. For texts, veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code: 838255.

The lifeline “is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that helps thousands of citizens overcome crisis situations every day,” according to the FCC. “These centers are supported by local and state resources as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and mental Health Services Administration.”

According to NPR, “The Biden administration has invested more than $400 million in beefing up crisis centers and other mental health services to support the 988 system.”

The establishment of the 988 line has been a long time coming. Way back in 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline launched with the number 1-800-273-8255. The line received around 46,000 calls in its first year.

In August 2019, FCC staff released a report recommending the use of 988 as the 3-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. A year later, the FCC then designated this new phone number for individuals in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis support.

In October 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 was signed into law, incorporating 988 into statute as the new Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line phone number. Just over a year later, the FCC adopted rules to expand access to text 988 to directly reach the lifeline to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities.

To learn more about the lifeline, visit fcc.gov/988-suicide-and-crisis-lifeline.

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