In a letter to the FCC, Sen. Ron Wyden urged commissioners to alter the number for the national suicide prevention hotline.
Wyden, whose home state of Oregon has the nation’s 16th highest suicide rate, argues that the current 800 number for suicide prevention is too long and may not serve those in a crisis very well. He wants to change the hotline to a 3-digit number, much like 9-1-1 for emergency services.
“A new designated 3 digit code, such as 6-1-1, which has been recommended by my friends from Oregon Lines for Life, would be best because we need a dedicated hotline for only this issue” Wyden said.
The National Suicide Prevention LifeLine was established in 2004 and took in over 2 million calls last year. Wyden argues that while this program is useful, there’s been an increase in demand that “government officials and policy makers need to keep up with.”
“Suicide rates are devastatingly on the rise and I’ve seen folks in my home state struggling,” said Wyden in a statement to AfroTech. “When every second counts, people in crisis should be able to receive immediate access to the care they need. It’s a matter of life and death. An easy to remember 3-digit number for intervention services will save lives.”
Over the course of 17 years, America’s suicide rate has risen by 30 percent, according to the CDC. Last year alone, over 47,000 Americans took their own lives and there were over 1 million suicide attempts.
“More needs to be done to help those in need, and to increase resources and improve access to mental health professionals to help those thinking of suicide,” wrote Wyden in his letter to the FCC.
Suicide rates for African Americans have been between five and six percent since 2000. Suicide rates among Black youth however, have skyrocketed in that time. Data published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that Black children take their lives at twice the rate of white children.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and second-leading cause of death among those ages 15-34.