Lawmakers push to create a three-digit suicide hotline number

In a letter addressed to the FCC, Senator Ron Wyden urged commissioners to create a three-digit, 911-style suicide hotline number. The Oregon senator cites the CDC’s report that more than 40,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017.

“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.”

While The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline launched an 800 line in 2004, many believe the number is too long and cumbersome for those reaching out in their time of need. The letter floats the idea of using 611. The call echoes a similar push last week by Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Chris Stewart to designate the number, which is currently used to report phone service problems by some U.S. and Canadian carriers.

Still, it’s widely regarded as the most reasonable three-digit option currently available

“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.”

A National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act was passed and signed into law in August. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK.