988: 3-digit number welcomed as suicide prevention hotline

Local News

To combat a growing suicide rate across the country, the number for help may soon be shrinking.

The FCC recommended Aug. 15, 2019, to designate the number 9-8-8 as a national suicide prevention and mental health hotline.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for 2017 shows more than 47,000 deaths in America from suicide.

The rate increasing 3.7 percent from 2016 or up about 2,000 deaths.

There were also more than 1.4 million adults who attempted suicide.

The CDC lists suicide as the 10th highest cause of death.

Rhonda’s House Coordinator Ed Murphy said, “I think it’s just as crucial as 911.”

9-8-8 will be the 9-1-1 for suicide prevention and mental health resources. 

Murphy said, “Those three digits is something that would have helped me out and could help me out in the future if need be.”

The coordinator at Rhonda’s House, the peer-run respite home in DeWitt, Ed Murphy said times when he’s been in crisis and suicidal, the last thing that comes to mind is remembering or finding a 10 digit 1-800 number.

“I was not thinking clearly,” said Murphy on his personal experience. “There were for me, nothing made sense, so to try to think of a phone number, to even try to reach out was very hard.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-TALK — assist a sizeable call volume through crisis centers across the country.
Last year, they answered more than 2.2 million calls.

Murphy said he thinks three digits could add to that, make it easier for caretakers and save more lives.

“Might be able to get more people to call in, in those times so it doesn’t keep building and building,” said Murphy.

And on the other end of that line, Murphy said it can be a comfort to get that reassuring voice.

Murphy said, “There’s times where I feel like no one understands. To have a specific number to call where people are trained, I feel comfortable knowing that somebody knows something about it, and sometimes even knowing that it’s not somebody I immediately know.”

Along with help, Murphy sees 9-8-8 as a way to educate even young kids and destigmatize.

Murphy said, “Unfortunately with suicide, I’m not sure if there will ever be a set solution to it but the more we can get it out there, the more we can do things.”

The FCC Chairman said there will be a public comment period as the agency works to finalize and implement the number.

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