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Shelley Starkey

National Council Comments on Suicide Hotline Implementation

December 13, 2018 | Mental Health | Comments
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Earlier this week, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing submitted official comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the agency to designate a 3-digit phone code as a Behavioral Health and Suicide Crisis Lifeline. The National Council’s comments aim to address a public notice issued by the FCC soliciting public opinion on the implementation of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act. The Act, which was signed into law in August, tasks the FCC along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with studying and reporting on the feasibility of replacing the current behavioral health crisis hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, with a memorable three-digit code such as 411 or 611.

With suicide and drug overdose deaths in the United States on the rise, the time is now to embrace mental and emotional wellness as a national priority. As outlined in the National Council’s comments, establishing a three-digit code would make it easier for millions of Americans to access timely and effective crisis intervention services, would better meet the growing need for such services, and would ultimately help eliminate the stigma of mental health concerns by putting mental health crisis services alongside other emergency services for things like fires, automobile accidents, social service referrals, and medical crises.

Evidence shows that the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline touches thousands of lives every day and helps over 2 million Americans and their families each year cope with the challenges of mental illness and suicidal crises. By making access to these services as easy as dialing three numbers, rather than the current 1-800-273-TALK hotline, millions more Americans could be reached and provided with help from highly trained counselors to guide them through a crisis.

The FCC, SAMHSA, and VA have until August 14, 2019 to compile a report for Congress on the feasibility and logistical considerations for developing such a system, as well as a report on how well the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is working to address the needs of veterans specifically. To read the FCC’s public notice, click here, and to read the National Council’s comments in full, click here.