(NEW YORK) — With the pandemic exacerbating the nation’s mental health crisis, the Federal Communications Commission is now considering whether to expand a forthcoming 988 suicide lifeline to include an option to text the hotline, in addition to making a phone call.

Experts argue that for people experiencing mental health distress, the easier it is to reach the suicide prevention lifeline, the better. And many people prefer to text rather than call.

If approved by the FCC on Thursday, text message providers would be required to support text messaging to 988 starting July 2022.



A national suicide prevention lifeline already exists, as the 10-digit number 1-800-273-8255 [TALK]. For years, advocates have been arguing for a simple, three-digit number, akin to 911, for people to call if they are in a mental health crisis.

This easier-to-dial 988 number is already in the works, slated to go live on July 16, 2022. Currently, the forthcoming 988 number will only support phone calls. Today, the FCC will decide whether text message providers also need to support texting to the 988 lifeline.

If given a green light, the move could expand access to the lifeline for all Americans, including many teens who may prefer to text. Last month, the nation’s top pediatric medical associations declared children’s mental health challenges during the pandemic a “national emergency.”

Currently, people can text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741) or can initiate an online chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] – for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it – you are not alone.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.