At-risk individuals will be able to text 988 to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as a result of a new FCC order, with the texting option to be fully supported by carriers by July 16, 2022.
The Lifeline was established in 2020 to provide free, confidential support to Americans in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
In its press release, the regulator pointed out the importance of having quick and easy access to mental health and crisis counseling services: In 2020, there were 44,834 suicide victims in the U.S. There are particularly high levels of suicide among at-risk communities, including youth, the black community, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and the deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind and people who have speech disabilities that affect communication.
For many of these people, text messaging offers an easier option to contact a crisis counselor because texting allows some more anonymity than a voice call.
Once supported, text messages sent to 988 will be routed to Lifeline’s 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The order is also designed to help determine which of the FCC’s federal partners are best positioned to determine whether and how to text 988 for the Veterans Crisis Line’s text service.
During the transition to 988, Americans who need help should continue to contact the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats, the FCC said in its press release.