WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Jack Reed’s effort to create a three-digit national suicide hotline took an important step forward today when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to move forward with designating 9-8-8 to reach a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which currently has a ten digit number: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).  The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources, and best practices for professionals.

Earlier this year, Senator Reed (D-RI), along with Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to designate a three-digit phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline and ensure states have the flexibility to strengthen local crisis call centers.  The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line are 10-digits, which is a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act directs the FCC to designate 9-8-8 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  This line would include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support.  Additionally, the legislation will authorize the ability of states to collect fees to ensure local call centers are able to support increased volume.

“The suicide prevention hotline is a real life saver and I am pleased the FCC is moving forward with our bipartisan proposal to create a simple, a three-digit phone number that people may call in times of crisis.  A nationwide, three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crises will connect people with the specialized help they need, when they need it,” said Senator Reed.

Reed co-authored a law last year, the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, which directed the FCC to study assigning a three-digit number for suicide prevention.  In August, the FCC recommended in its report the use of a 3-digit line and the number 9-8-8.  The regulators noted that a 3-digit line would help with mental health and suicide prevention access.

Today’s FCC vote marks the start of a new, months-long phase to make the 9-8-8 proposal a reality.  The next step is a public comment period before the FCC moves to an order.

There are an average of 129 suicides a day in the U.S. according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.