Bill makes 9-8-8 National Suicide Hotline
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced the House of Representatives has approved four pieces of legislation to further federal efforts toward suicide prevention in the U.S. Included among these bills is S.2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, which would simplify the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from 1-800-273-8255 to 9-8-8. This change is intended to make the lifeline easier to remember and quick to dial, eliminating existing barriers to this life-saving resource. The bill previously passed in the Senate and will now move to the president’s desk.
“The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated an already long-neglected mental health crisis,” Higgins said. “This legislation advances efforts to provide people and communities with better access to resources. Together we can help save lives. Check on your friends, neighbors and family.”
Additionally, through H.R. 4585, the Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act, funding will be allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in order to launch and operate a coordinated media campaign to promote the change to the 988 number.
A press release said, “While raising awareness of and increasing access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a major step forward in preventing self-harm and suicidal behavior, Congress recognizes its responsibility to go even further. Accordingly, H.R. 4564, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act of 2020, will increase the lifeline’s annual budget to $50 million. Moreover, this bill will establish a pilot program to ‘research, analyze, and employ various innovative technologies and platforms for suicide prevention and reports on the use and progress of the pilot.’ ”
The final of these four bills, H.R. 5619, the Suicide Prevention Act, will create two grant programs to expand the abilities of state, local and tribal governments to prevent, address and respond to self-harm and suicidal thoughts and actions. These programs will provide channels through which regional health departments and hospitals can receive federal funding to monitor and assist individuals who are at risk of self-harm or suicide.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The transition to the 9-8-8 hotline is expected to take place over the next year. In the meantime, know that you are not alone. If you or somebody you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out to suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-8255.