The Federal Communications Commission is considering implementing a new method for people in crisis to seek help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by sending a text message in addition to calling the network.
Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed an order that would allow anyone seeking to connect with mental health professionals to simply send a text message to 988. The message should be automatically routed to Lifeline’s full number (1-800-273-8255).
Rosenworcel noted that texting has become the “primary mode of communication” for many young people and at-risk communities such as the LGBTQ+. “And as such, we should meet them where they are — so they can connect to mental health resources no matter how they communicate during a crisis,” she said.
The proposed order will also make it easier for people with hearing impairments or simply want to remain anonymous to contact Lifeline personnel using a mobile device, including many of the best Android phones and iOS devices. The network provides free support to people who are “in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.” On November 18, the commission will vote on the proposal.
Text providers would have to support the new order by July 16, 2022, for every messaging format that’s compatible with the Lifeline. The FCC is also considering adopting the same method for the Veterans Crisis Line.
The Lifeline can already be accessed through web-based online chats, and the proposed text-to-988 method should expand access to the network.
Update, Nov 19 (3 p.m. ET) ― Deadline for 988 support set for July 16, 2022
On Thursday, the FCC voted unanimously to support text-to-988 access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This would give Americans another avenue to seek help in a way that’s potentially more comfortable and anonymous for young people.
The deadline to support text-to-988 is set for July 16, 2022, the same time that 988 will go live as the three-digit number for Lifeline access.