US Lawmakers are pushing for a new suicide hotline number to address the rising numbers of suicides and suicide attempts in the nation, along with the increase in the number of people suffering from depression. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon sent a letter to the FCC urging commissioners to create a three-digit suicide hotline number, similar to 911.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline launched an 800-number back in 2004, but the number is long and cumbersome for those in immediate need. The current number is 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK. A simple 3-digit number, similar to 911, would be much easier for people to remember and use when in distress.
“I write on behalf of those struggling with mental health issues, our veterans struggling with PTSD and for those impacted by the tragedy of suicide,” Wyden writes. “I urge you to designate a 3-digit code as a Behavioral Health and Suicide Crisis Lifeline. Thank you for your consideration.”
Senator Wyden’s letter cites the CDC’s most report that more than 40,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the 3rd leading cause of death in young adults in America.
In his letter, Senator Wyden proposed the idea of using 6-1-1- as the potential number for the hotline. Last week Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Chris Steward also recommended that number. Currently, 611 is used to report phone service problems by some US and Canadian carriers. Even though it’s currently in use, many regard it as the best option.
“We believe 611 is a simple, easy-to-remember number and is the best option for the three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” they wrote in the letter. “This undertaking is of utmost national importance. This simple change can connect millions of Americans with life-saving resources, including veterans that find themselves in crisis.” As an alternative, lawmakers have also proposed 9-8-8 as another 3-digit hotline for behavioral health crises.
As suicide rates increase in the US, a national hotline number that is easy to remember is desperately needed. Not only would it provide a resource to those struggling it would likely decrease the number of suicide attempts or deaths. A specially designated hotline could also free up other services such as 911.