FCC proposes 988 for new suicide prevention number

An agency report to Congress recommends adopting an easier number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Testifies Before House Appropriations Committee

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai: "There is a suicide epidemic in this country."

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The Federal Communications Commission proposed using 988 as the new phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. FCC staff recommended replacing the current 10-digit number with the shorter designation in a report to Congress on Wednesday. 

The report says the current number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, was called more than 2.2 million times in 2018. The agency found that in making a change, 988 could be implemented more quickly than repurposing an existing three-digit N11 code like 511 or 611. 

In a statement Thursday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he's committed to moving forward on the report's recommendations.

"There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations, including our veterans and LGBTQ youth," Pai said.

Suicide increased in 49 states from 1996 to 2016, with a rise greater than 20% in more than half those states, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The largest increase occurred in the past decade.

If you're struggling with negative thoughts or suicidal feelings, here are 13 suicide and crisis intervention hotlines you can use to get help.

You can also call these numbers:
US: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. 
UK: The Samaritans can be reached at 116 123. 
AU: Lifeline can be reached at 13 11 14.