The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved 988 as the new suicide prevention hotline number as of Dec. 16, 2019, Calls to the number are directed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, according to the FCC.

“Currently, the national suicide prevention lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255),” Molly Wertz, counselor at Wartburg, said. “Unless someone has that number readily available, it may be challenging to recall during a mental health crisis. Shortening the number to 988 decreases a potential barrier to receiving care.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline answered more than 2.2 million calls and 100,000 online chats in 2018, according to the FCC. By offering immediate counseling, local crisis centers and the hotline provided support at critical times and connected individuals to local services, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline organization.

This designation will help ease access to crisis services, reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health conditions, and ultimately save lives, according to the FCC.

The Deaths from suicide have been steadily rising in the United States. From 1999 to 2017, the suicide rate rose 33% 10.5 to 14.0 per 100,000, and between 2014 and 2017 it rose 7.6%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The approved proposal for the new hotline number required telephone providers to implement the 988 number so it can be operational with phone plans and companies within 18 months, according to BBC. Until then, to talk to someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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