Reps. Buck and Crow urge FCC to add a text option to the national suicide prevention hotline
Many young people are more comfortable texting than calling, representatives say
(Creative commons via Pixabay)
Two Colorado representatives are urging the Federal Communications Commission to add a texting option to the national suicide prevention hotline, saying it will “save lives.” This comes a year after Congress passed a law designating 988 as the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a change from the current 1-800-273-8255 number.
Reps. Ken Buck, of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, and Jason Crow, of the 6th District, sent a joint letter to acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Sept. 9, asking the FCC to add the texting option to the hotline.
In July 2020, the FCC established 988 at the new, nationwide phone number for Americans to call if they need to connect with suicide prevention counselors, according to the FCC website. The three-digit phone number is to “aid rapid access to suicide prevention and mental health support services.”
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“Even before the pandemic, mental illness rates and suicidal ideation among adults were on the rise,” Crow, a Democrat, and Buck, a Republican, wrote in the letter. “The COVID-19 pandemic compounded these trends and took a particularly devastating toll on the mental health of young people. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal thinking and attempts among youth were up 25% over a similar period in 2019.”
Prior to the 988 transition, if you or someone you know is in a crisis, contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Veterans should press the number 1 after calling to be connected with the Veterans Crisis Line.
In Colorado, you can contact the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.
Last year, former Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado sponsored the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, which would require the FCC to designate 988 as the “universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.” The bill passed, and phone service providers have until July 16, 2022, to make the transition to directing all 988 calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There are an average of 129 suicides each day in the United States, the bill states, drawing on data from the American Foundation for Suicide.
“Young people and other at-risk populations are often most comfortable communicating via text,” the letter stated. “By allowing a text-to-988 option in addition to voice call, the Commission can lower the bar to entry and improve access to crisis counseling and mental health services. This will save lives.”
“We have a very concerning suicide rate among younger people,” Buck said in an interview with Newsline. “The typical mode of communication for a suicide hotline is a phone call, a lot of young people are more comfortable texting. I just thought that this 988 idea was a great idea.”
Buck and Crow are personal friends and work together well, Buck said. He has not heard the FCC’s response to the letter yet.
— Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) September 9, 2021
The letter was signed by all seven Colorado members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Lauren Boebert of the 3rd Congressional District.
“During #SuicidePreventionMonth, we remember that everyone deserves mental health care. That’s why @RepBuck and I are asking @FCC to help increase accessibility and add a texting option to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” Crow tweeted on Sept. 13.
One person dies from suicide every 40 seconds, according to a 2019 press release from the World Health Organization. September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
In Colorado, 1,294 people died by suicide in 2020, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Colorado had approximately 22 deaths by suicides per 100,000 people in 2020, according to the CDPHE.
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