Weekly Column: Making The National Suicide Hotline More Accessible
Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports:
- “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
- One person dies by suicide every 11 minutes.
- In 2017, 10.6 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million made a plan, and 1.4 million attempted suicide.
- People who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence are at higher risk for suicide.”
Idahoans have shared stories with me about the tragic loss of friends and loved ones to suicide. The enormous losses and impacts on Idaho families and communities are heartbreaking. My prayers continue to be with those who are struggling that they may know how deeply they are valued and that needed help reaches them. Ensuring everyone knows where to turn for help is among federal actions to prevent suicide.
On July 16, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated 988 as a new short, 3-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Phone service providers have until July 16, 2022, to transition to 988. The FCC’s action follows the 2018 enactment of legislation commissioning the FCC to study the feasibility and usefulness of a three-digit suicide hotline. Last year, the FCC reported moving to an easy-to-remember, three-digit hotline would make it simpler for Americans in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues.
As part of this effort, on May 13, 2020, the Senate amended and passed by voice vote legislation I co-sponsored that was introduced by fellow Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) to require the FCC’s designation of 988 as the universal national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. In passing the legislation, the Senate recognized, “To prevent future suicides, it is critical to transition the cumbersome, existing 10-digit National Suicide Hotline to a universal, easy-to-remember, 3-digit phone number and connect people in crisis with life-saving resources.” The bill is pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, where similar legislation was introduced and has undergone committee consideration.
In addition to making the National Suicide Hotline more accessible, I have supported a number of other federal actions to combat suicide, particularly among veterans, including the following:
- I co-led the introduction of S. 1594, the SERVICE Act, to address the alarmingly high veteran suicide rates.
- I joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in asking the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to examine the alarmingly high rates of suicide in the National Guard.
- On July 7, 2020, the White House and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ launched the REACH national public health campaign to change the conversation about suicide and create an environment where people recognize their own risk and reach out to others who may be vulnerable. REACH is part of the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) focused on a holistic public health approach to suicide prevention.
These are just a few recent examples of the many ongoing suicide prevention efforts. As work continues to transition to the 988 code, those in need of help are encouraged to continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats. Veterans and servicemembers may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, chatting online at www.veteranscrisisline.net, or texting 838255. Additionally, The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare also provides many resources, including resources to assist Idahoans who have lost a loved one to suicide, at http://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Families/SuicidePrevention/Resources/tabid/1920/Default.aspx.
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