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By Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America

“Mental Health America applauds the decision of the FCC order that 9-8-8 be established as a three-digit national, official suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline number by July 2022. Suicide rates have risen for years, and suicidal ideation has increased at a rapid rate in recent months, something that has been suggested both by MHA data and by the ongoing US Census 2020 Pulse Survey.

“Too often, when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, people call 911 and get a police response. The designation of 9-8-8 as an effective and accessible resource for mental health emergencies is a critical step toward addressing that problem and MHA looks forward to working with the FCC, our colleagues and local communities to ensure a mental health response to what is a mental health need.

“While two years is still a long time to wait for the benefits of the full implementation of a universal three-digit crisis number, if adopted, this will help us all to make a meaningful impact on suicide rates and to mitigate crisis events in the coming decades. In the meantime, the existing services and number (1-800-273-TALK) that will remain in place will continue to be a lifeline to people with mental health needs.

“MHA congratulates the FCC on this next step toward implementation of 9-8-8, and moving forward, we urge them to ensure that the transition occurs on schedule and smoothly. We urge Congress to pass the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to provide critical funding and make sure that 9-8-8 is resourced appropriately, and we urge present and future Administrations to make the mental health of the population – especially in the face of the ongoing public health and societal challenges we are facing – a lasting priority.”