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Nationwide Three-Digit Suicide Prevention Hotline Established; Effective During 2022

July 24, 2020

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced it was moving forward with the implementation of a three-digit crisis hotline number to help Americans connect with mental health counselors and other treatment professionals. By adopting new rules establishing 988 as the nationwide crisis hotline number, phone service providers, as well as all interconnected and one-way Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers, have until July 16, 2022, to ensure that all 988 calls are directed to the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Similar to 911 for emergencies, 988 will become the nationwide number for suicide prevention awareness and counseling.

The transition to the new, easier-to-remember three-digit number is based on FCC report recommendations to Congress issued during August, 2019, following a comprehensive study of the feasibility of using an easier to remember three-digit number. The current national crisis hotline number is 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the country:

  • More than 47,000 Americans lost their lives to suicide; suicide was the tenth leading cause of death
  • For individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, suicide was the second leading cause of death
  • For individuals between the ages of 35 to 54, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death
  • From 1999 through 2017, the age-adjusted suicide rate increased 33 percent from 10.5 to 14.0 per 100,000

Based on data from HAP’s population dashboard, Pennsylvania’s suicide rate is higher than the national average.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to worsen suicide rates. From job and health insurance losses, to economic devastation across the nation, to increasing food insecurity and dependence on public assistance programs, Pennsylvanians and individuals across the country are being exposed daily to extreme stress and rapidly anxiety levels. A Lancet Psychology article published during April detailed the factors from the pandemic that may influence increasing suicide rates; the article called for “urgent consideration” to prevention-awareness efforts.

Individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts should call the national National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) or Text START to 741741. Online chat support also is available.

During May, 2019, Pennsylvania convened a Suicide Prevention Task Force to create a statewide reduction strategy and reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues. Additional information about the task force’s efforts is available at the Prevent Suicide PA website.

For more information about population health and determinants of health such as food insecurity, contact HAP’s Rob Shipp, PhD, BSN, RN, vice president, population health and clinical affairs.