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House passes bill to create 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number

Suicide hotline would go from 10 digits to 3
Posted: 2:49 PM, Jul 24, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-24 20:52:03Z

You know 9-1-1 can be dialed for emergencies. Now, a three-digit number for suicide prevention is close to becoming a reality, too.

The bill passed the House of Representatives Monday and is now on the president’s desk for approval. If signed, the suicide prevention number would go from 10 digits to just three.

It's only been a few months since handbag designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took their lives. But in that time, calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline have jumped 25 percent.

The number is currently 1-800-273-TALK, which might not be the easiest to remember, especially in the middle of a crisis.

“Lots of times, we have crisis lines out there; we have text lines, but if you're in a crisis, are you going to remember it?” says Jewell Gooding, executive director of Mental Health America of Georgia.

Gooding says that's why she's excited about the potential of a three-digit number that would connect people to critical help quickly.

“We have to think about it from the same perspective of physical health,” says Gooding. “If you're experiencing a heart attack, you need responses very quickly; you need for it to happen quickly, the same way if you're experiencing a mental health crisis.”

The bill would make the hotline more user-friendly, something the bill’s sponsors say could potentially save lives.

Someone commits suicide every 9 minutes in the United States, and for every suicide-related death, there are 25 attempts. That's why Gooding says access is so important.

“It could be that life-splitting second that if you just have someone to pick up on the other end, to be a welcoming voice, I think that's a good opportunity,” says Gooding.

The bill’s authors say they know this isn't a total solution, but it's a start, and they look forward to the president signing it into law.