FCC Designates ‘988’ as 3-Digit Number for National Suicide Prevention Hotline

From the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to establish 988 as the new, nationwide, 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors.  The rules require all phone service providers to direct all 988 calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022.  During the transition to 988, Americans who need help should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats.  Veterans and Service members may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, chatting online at www.veteranscrisisline.net, or texting 838255.

The new rules will apply to all telecommunications carriers as well as all interconnected and one-way Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers.  They provide for a two-year transition, reflecting the real challenges of this nationwide effort, including the need for widespread network changes and providing time for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to prepare for the expected increase in the volume of calls.  Under these rules, calls to 988 will be directed to 1-800-273-TALK, which will remain operational during the 988 transition and after it is completed.  To ensure that calls to 988 reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, all covered providers will be required to implement 10-digit dialing in areas that both use seven-digit dialing and use 988 as the first three numbers in seven-digit phone numbers.

Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.  Suicide claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans in 2018, resulting in about one death every 11 minutes.  An FCC staff report to Congress in 2019 proposed establishing 988 as an easy to remember three-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Staff analyzed various options and determined 988 was the best option for increasing access to crisis resources and ensuring the fastest possible transition.  Establishing the easy-to-remember 988 as the “911” for suicide prevention and mental health services will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of approximately 170 crisis centers.  The centers are supported by local and state, and public and private sources, as well as by Congressional appropriations through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is the access point for the Veterans Crisis Line, which is managed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Action by the Commission July 16, 2020 by Report and Order (FCC 20-100).  Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, Rosenworcel, and Starks approving and issuing separate statements.

Freeholders and Mental Health Association Announce “Team Up” Suicide Prevention Partnership

Focus on Morris County Adults and Youths Affected by Pandemic

Suicide prevention during this high-stress COVID-19 crisis will be the focus of a new Team Up partnership between the Morris County Department of Human Services and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.

The joint effort, which is being funded by county government, will deal with increased mental health issues caused by a host of factors, from loss of jobs and businesses, to isolation and fear of an uncertain future.

It will employ social services, mental health, and education professionals to reach out to Morris County residents in need of help.

“Many residents are dealing with issues that are pushing them beyond the limits of their ability to cope, and to deal with life stresses that are far beyond the norm,’’ said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo. “We want to reach out to them – young and old – and give them some help and assurance, and resources to get through this difficult time.’’

The Freeholder Board last night approved a $22,160 expenditure to fund a 22-week Team Up program, running from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, that will offer in-person and virtual help for residents, and online training for educators and professionals to deal with mental health issues during this crisis.

“We look forward to working with Morris County on this  innovative effort, and we appreciate their leadership,’’ said Mental Health Association Executive Director Bob Davison. “ As a community, we must address the issues of suicide prevention and mental health out in the open; as a partnership , families, government and agencies working together.”

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, self-quarantines, and social distancing have been employed. While these practices are helpful in dealing with the virus, this isolation from family, friends, and community have induced anxiety, depression, fear, and loneliness – all factors that can lead to suicide, according to mental health experts.

The new five-month Morris County and MHAEM program will focus on both adult and youth populations.

Adult population

Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris (MHAEM) professionals will ride along with Morris County’s Navigating Hope mobile social services van one day each week throughout the county. While on Navigating Hope they will educate residents on signs of suicide, assist persons in immediate crisis, and refer residents to available mental health services.

The MHAEM also will address the adult population by providing virtual 90-minute presentations on suicide prevention to Morris County residents.

They also plan to reach consumers through social media and various programs the agency offers, while the county will help publicize the dates of MHAEM presentations and disseminate information to towns and agencies across Morris County.

Youth Population

The Mental Health Association will work with school districts across Morris County to educate faculty, staff, and students on the signs of suicide. All school districts will be invited to participate in an overview of the components of the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program.

MHAEM will offer training — in-person or virtual –on the implementation of the SOS program in schools.

More information on COVID-19 and mental health:

Morris County Stigma-Free: https://morriscountystigmafree.org/covid19/

MHAEM: https://www.mhaessexmorris.org/covid-19/

NewBridge Services: https://newbridge.org/

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html