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New three-digit number to reach suicide prevention hotline in the works

The Federal Communications Commission is working on project to setup a new three-digit number, 988, to make it easier to reach a suicide prevention hotline.
Posted at 9:34 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-14 00:16:36-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Federal Communications Commission is working on setting up a new three-digit number to reach a suicide prevention hotline.

The goal - to make it easier for people in distress to get help. Instead of dialing a long ten-digit number where you can get a number of services people will simply dial 988 which will be solely dedicated to suicide prevention.

We sat down with one teenager who's working to stop the suicide epidemic and says this change could save thousands of lives.

Caden Kroeker said, "Truly, I believe pretty much everybody in Colorado has a personal connection to suicide and that it has affected everybody in the community in some way, shape, or form."

The 16-year-old is the president of Project Reasons, a group formed back in 2017 with the purpose of preventing more suicides from happening.

He said, "To be able to have a part in bringing a positive outlook was something that I was really excited to be able to have the opportunity to be in."

Teen suicide in Colorado has risen nearly 60 percent in the last three years according to the United Health Foundation. That's the fastest rate in the nation.

In a few months Kroeker may another tool in his belt to help those dealing with mental health issues - a simple three-digit number to reach a suicide prevention hotline: 988.

"I think it's a great resource. Like 911, for instance, that's used in an emergency for health and likewise I think this is equally as beneficial for people who are in need of that help."

He says Project Reasons promotes the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, but he admits it's hard to remember.

"Definitely narrowing it down to something that can be easily remembered in an emergency situation I think can be very beneficial...can you imagine if 911 was this crazy long number that you had to look up every time that someone broke their arm or something? That would be really hard, but when it's put down into these three digits that's easy to remember you can call it just like that."

The FCC is working on this project and hope to have the number up and running in 18 months or less, but for now if you or someone you know needs help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Local organizations are also speaking out about this change. Gina Tambone (LPC Director, Assessment & Referral of Peak View Behavioral Health and board member of Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership) sent the statement below:

"The FCC's approval of this system shows that our nation is prioritizing mental health and suicide prevention. Implementing a 3-digit hotline number, similar to that of 911, 411, etc. might be easier for people to remember when they are in the midst of a mental health crisis. If this is true, it will allow more people to easily and quickly connect with a mental health professional in real time. Being able to make immediate contact with a trained professional can offer hope, help interrupt impulsive behaviors if the person is actively suicidal, and would, ultimately, result in an increased number of saved lives."