FCC Approves Order Allowing Texts to Suicide Prevention Line
Thursday, November 18, 2021 | Comments

The FCC voted to approve a second report and order to expand access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by establishing the ability to text 9-8-8 to directly reach the Lifeline to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities.

The Lifeline is a national network that provides free, confidential support to Americans in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The action adopts a uniform implementation deadline requiring covered text providers to support text messaging to 9-8-8 by July 16, 2022, the same date the FCC has established 9-8-8 as the three-digit dialing code for Americans to reach the Lifeline by telephone.

Quick and easy access to mental health and crisis counseling services is critical. In 2020, 44,834 individuals died by suicide in the United States, and evidence suggests the toll of the global pandemic has only increased the strain on many Americans’ mental health and well-being. Suicide significantly impacts at-risk communities, including youth; the Black community; the LGBTQ+ community; veterans; and the deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, and people who have speech disabilities that affect communication. For individuals in crisis, text messaging can make it easier to contact a crisis counselor by allowing for a certain level of anonymity rather than engaging in a phone conversation.

The FCC’s action requires covered text providers to support text messaging to 9-8-8 by routing text messages sent to 9-8-8 to the Lifeline’s 10-digit number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The rules establish a process that will require covered text providers to support transmitting messages to 9-8-8 in additional text messaging formats that the Lifeline is capable of receiving. And the item finds that the FCC’s federal partners are best positioned to determine whether and how to text 9-8-8 for the Veterans Crisis Line’s text service.

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