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FCC to vote in July to make ‘988’ the suicide hotline number

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019 file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. Federal regulators will vote in July 2020 on whether to make “988” the number to reach a suicide prevention hotline. The Federal Communications Commission says phone service providers will have until July 2022 to implement the new number, if the measure is approved in July, as expected. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Federal regulators will vote in July on whether to make “988” the number to reach a suicide prevention hotline.

The Federal Communications Commission says phone service providers will have until July 2022 to implement the new number, if the measure is approved in July, as expected.

Once it’s in place, people will be able to dial 988 to seek help, like how you can call 911 for an emergency. Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255), which routes calls to about 170 crisis centers.

That 800 number will remain in place, but having the shorter number makes it easier for people to call, and is expected to lead to an increase in calls to the hotline.

Suicide-prevention experts have said that the three-digit number will be a breakthrough that helps people in crisis. One aspect of designating a three-digit number for the hotline, just like 911 for emergencies, is that it removes stigma for seeking help in a mental-health emergency, they say.

The government’s action comes as suicide rates have increased across the U.S. over the past two decades. The coronavirus pandemic has put even more strain on the nation’s mental health care system, and experts have been concerned about the impact as the virus and its aftershocks may deepen people’s levels of anxiety and depression.

 

Know the warning signs

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

The following are warning signs of immediate risk. Call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing the following:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themself or talking of wanting to hurt or kill themself
  • Looking for ways to kill themself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary
    Additional Warning Signs:
  • Increased substance use
  • No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling trapped — like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changesCourtesy of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition

Read more of KSL Newsradio’s coverage of “Healing Utah’s Teenagers” here.

KSL’s combined coverage “Reasons to Hope” is found here.

And resources for help around Utah are here.