National Suicide Prevention Hotline to change number to three digits

Recent vote by Federal Communications Commission allows for quicker lifeline


Art by Maggie Klaers. The colors most commonly assigned to the suicide prevention awareness ribbon are turquoise and purple.The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to change the suicide hotline number from the traditional 10 digit phone number to a three digit number, like 911. The change from 1-800-273-8255 to 988 as the hotline number is a several month long process.

Colin Canaday

Following a vote by the Federal Communications Commission Dec. 12, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline will be shortened to three digits.

Tanya Carter, a representative for the Minnesota Department of Health, said she thinks the change will help increase public knowledge about mental health issues.

“Currently, federal regulators are setting up the new three-digit number to reach a suicide prevention hotline in order to make it easier to seek help and reduce the stigma associated with mental health,” Carter said. “Once the number is implemented, people will just need to dial 988 to seek help, similar to calling 911 for emergencies or 211 for local resources within the state. Callers are then routed to one of 163 crisis centers where counselors answered 2.2 million calls last year”.

Sophomore Thomas Hanson said the number change has the potential to be very useful for those in need of help.

“I think it’s great that they (changed the number). It makes it more accessible for the individuals who need it, and it shows that the government is viewing the rising suicide rates as a national problem,” Hanson said.

I think it’s great they (changed the number). It makes it more accessible for the individuals who need it, and it shows the government is viewing the rising suicide rates as a national problem”

— Thomas Hanson

Carter said she believes a major driving force behind this vote was its accessibility.

“I think the push behind it was the convenience of being able to have a three-digit number, rather than individuals having to remember the longer number,” Carter said.

According to junior Grace Kanyinku, the reduction of digits in the number will allow for people to remember it better when under duress.

“I think it’s very beneficial that they shortened (the number) for many reasons,” Kanyinku said. “For kids, it would be a lot easier to remember a three-digit number versus a ten-digit. When you’re in that feeling you may not be thinking straight and may be unable to focus, and you might not be able to remember the ten-digit number versus under pressure you would remember a three-digit number.”

Carter said this change has an effect on every person, whether they have a mental health issue or not.

“(The change) affect(s) anybody and everybody who has the potential to have a suicide crisis or mental health concern,” Carter said. “There’s not one person who isn’t affected by this change, one way or the other.”