Three-digit suicide hotline number in the works

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Federal regulators are moving to create a new, three-digit suicide hotline number that people can dial in an emergency.

Just like dialing 911, people will soon be able to dial 988 to get help if they’re having thoughts of suicide.

The current number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, is a long number that can be hard to remember. However, it’s vital in an emergency.

“This is important," said Kim Hall, executive director of Mental Health Partners of Hancock County.

In 2018, the lifeline received more than 2.2 million calls as suicide rates continue to rise across the country. In Indiana, the suicide rate has increased by nearly 32% since 1999.

In Greenfield, Hall runs runs a support group for friends and family who have lost a loved one to suicide. She has a number of people who come to their meetings, including those who have battled their own crisis.

“We had one young man who came into the group one night and he had tried three times," Hall said. "And he decided that he’s not supposed to die,”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and connects to more than 170 crisis centers across the United States. Advocates say being able to dial a three-digit number would be a big step forward. Not only is the number quicker to dial and easier to remember, it also helps break the stigma.

“You call 911 if you’re having a heart attack, 211 if you need help with something, so why not have a three-digit number for suicide?” Hall said.

The FCC says there is overwhelming support for the idea. The next step is now a comment period before they move to an order.

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