9-8-8: Three-digit suicide prevention line is worth pursuing

Last week, local groups working to prevent suicide got a little good news, as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai agreed with them that there is a need for a three-digit suicide hotline, and said he plans to pursue adoption of 988 as the dialing code for a nationwide hotline, rather than the full phone number in use today, 800 273-8255 (TALK).

According to Jason Ferrebee, a member of the board of the American Federation for Suicide Prevention West Virginia Chapter and a local coordinator of the Out of Darkness Walk for suicide prevention in Parkersburg, the change will remove some burden from 911 operators, but also will help save lives by giving a direct, immediate connection to those reaching out for help. The hotline will put them in touch with a counselor that has received specialized suicide prevention training.

Good. It is another addition to the evolving toolkit for recognizing and providing better mental health response and treatment.

“There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations, including our Veterans and LGBTQ youth,” Pai said. “Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives.”

Anything that makes it easier for desperate people to quickly seek help is an important improvement. It is encouraging to see Pai intends to help make it happen.