The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to expand access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by letting people text 988 starting next year. Text message providers have to support the three-digit code by July 16th, 2022, which is when the code will go into effect. On that same date, people will also be able to dial 988 to access Lifeline following a 2020 FCC ruling. People in need of help before calling or texting 988 is an option can call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or get connected to a counselor through an online chat.
FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a tweet that nearly 6,000 Americans call the Lifeline on an average day. “As we know from 911, creating an easy-to-remember 3 digit number makes it easier for people to get help when they need it most,” she said. By allowing people to call or text the shorter 988 number, the Lifeline could be more accessible for people to turn to in a time of distress.
“With today’s decision to require providers to support text messaging to 988, the FCC has created a new vehicle for people to access help,” Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said in a statement. “The ability to text 988 will support at-risk communities, including youth and young adults, marginalized and underserved populations, and individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.”
Update November 18th, 5:16PM ET: Added statement from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.