911 but for suicide prevention, FCC moves forward with three-digit hotline

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) An echo of 911, the number we all know to call for emergencies, the easy to remember 988 number approved by the Federal Communications commission on Thursday will be used similarly, but for mental health support.

When it becomes operational, the 988 dial-code will provide mental health support and ease pressure on the 911 line, which covers all emergencies. (KEVN)

Stephanie Scheweitzer Dixon is the , Executive Director for the Front Porch Coalition, a suicide prevention organization.

"People have to remember that 10 digit number, and you know it's difficult to remember something like that when you're in a crisis and so unless you have the information we've given out or other agencies have given out, or you've programmed it into your phone -- which I know a lot of people don't do, how do you remember that," said Scheweitzer Dixon.

The FCC stated in 2018, counselors answered more than 2.2. million calls on the Suicide Prevention Hotline. In hope to make it easier for Americans in crisis to reach potentially life-saving resources, the 3-digit 988 number was given the green light to replace the current 1-800-273-TALK.

"So those crisis centers will still answer this number, what it is going to do is it's going to change the number, so that 1-800-773-TALK number is going to go away and just change to the 988 number," said Scheweitzer Dixon.

Suicide has increased by 33% the past 20 years, being the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The Front Porch Collation said even though the number is changing, phone calls will still be directed regionally to local health line centers.

"You know once they talk to somebody and they visit with somebody our local crisis center here in the state will be able to direct them to behavior health services in our state," said Scheweitzer Dixon.

More than 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017, so with short, memorable digits, hotline centers hope to reach more people in a crisis.

"We most likely will see more people come in, because as there are more stories about this and more stories about the awareness of the need as services, we do see more people call in," said Scheweitzer Dixon.

The 988 dial code is required to be put into action within two years.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.