Nov 18, 2021 - Technology

Texts or calls to 988 must route to suicide prevention hotline by July

Illustration of Illustration of person dialing 988 on smartphone
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to require phone companies to route text messages sent to "988" to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Why it matters: By making it easier to text the Lifeline, the FCC aims to increase accessibility for communities at a higher risk of suicide and mental health crises.

How it works: The move is meant to help 988 become the three-digit number to use for mental health crises, much like 911 is the number for emergencies.

  • With the FCC's vote, cell phone service providers would be required to meet a July 2022 deadline to deliver both texts and phone calls made to 988 to the Lifeline.

What they're saying: Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel noted that suicide rates have increased for young girls, and that LGBTQ youth are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers.

  • "These truths are undeniably painful because these young people deserve a future, they deserve support, " Rosenworcel said in a statement at the agency's meeting. "And that support should be simple to access."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline currently can be reached at the toll-free number, 1-800-273-TALK(8255).

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