Suicide rates in the U.S. are at their highest since World War II, and mental health support isn’t nearly as easy to access as it should be. To help, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to make it as easy to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline as it is to call 911.
The FCC proposed a three-letter shortcut for the hotline: 988. The recommendation came in a report to Congress, which says that the shortcut “would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources.”
Last year, counselors answered over 2.2 million calls and over 100,000 online chats. Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the country, and over 1.4 million Americans attempted suicide in 2017, CNN reports.
The FCC considered other three-digit options for the hotline, but they determined that the 988 number would be the quickest and easiest to implement. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says he intends to move forward with the recommendation.
“In the meantime, my heart goes out to anyone facing a crisis,” Ajit said in a statement. “I hope they will contact 1-800-273-TALK for support today.”
The hotline provides free, confidential 24/7 support to people in suicide crisis or distress. Calls to the current number are routed to the nearest certified crisis center.
Now that the FCC has notified the public about its proposal, there’s a period of at least 30 days for public comment before it can move forward.