WASHINGTON (OCTOBER 19, 2020) – On Saturday, October 17, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661), legislation that will support the implementation of the future 9-8-8 crisis hotline, was signed into law. Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, released the following statement:
In July, the Federal Communications Commission announced that 9-8-8 would be the new universal hotline number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 2022. This easy-to-remember number will increase public access to mental health and suicide prevention crisis resources, encourage help-seeking for individuals in need, and is a crucial entry point for establishing a continuum of crisis care.
This is why AFSP applauds the U.S. Congress for prioritizing suicide prevention through unanimous passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. This historic legislation, now law, will bring our mental health crisis response system into the 21st century. We are encouraged by the federal government’s dedication to preventing this leading cause of death and showing all Americans that mental health is just as important as physical health.
It should be noted however that the United States’ mental health crisis response system is woefully underfunded and undervalued. It is crucial that local crisis call centers are adequately equipped to respond to what we expect will be an increased call volume and provide effective crisis services to those in need when 9-8-8 is made available in July 2022.
We would like to especially thank the legislation’s sponsors in the U.S. Senate, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Jack Reed (D-RI), and the U.S. House, Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), as well as their staff. We would also like to thank the Committee members, Congressional leadership, and staff who have supported these efforts on Capitol Hill.
AFSP’s nearly 30,000 volunteer Field Advocates engaged their members of Congress for years in support of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. They made their voices heard through thousands of letters, phone calls, and emails. They have pushed the suicide prevention movement forward, and their efforts will save lives.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 9-8-8 number will be active nationwide by July 2022. Until that point, those in crisis should continue to call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For guidelines on how to report safely on suicide: https://afsp.org/for-journalists/.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.