National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The caller is routed to their nearest crisis center to receive immediate counseling and local mental health referrals. The lifeline supports people who call for themselves or someone they care about. In July 2020, the FCC finalized an order to direct telecommunication carriers to implement 9-8-8 as the new toll-free nationwide telephone number for the hotline by July 16, 2022.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline grant is one component of the National Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI), a multi-project effort to reduce suicide, led by the 's (SAMHSA) Center for Mental Health Services.[3]

In July 2004, SAMHSA released a notice of funding availability (NOFA) as part of its National Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI). In keeping with SAMHSA's duty to advance the goals of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, the NOFA called for proposals from nonprofit organizations to expand, enhance, and sustain a network of certified crisis centers providing suicide prevention and intervention services to those in need using a toll-free number and website.

In September 2004, the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC) was selected to administer the federally funded network of crisis centers named the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.[4]

In December 2004, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was founded by the , a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com all place the phone number and website details of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as the reserved first result for when one enters keywords related to suicide, such as "How to tie a noose" and "I want to die."[5]

In April 2017, Logic, an American musician and rapper released a song featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid for his third album Everybody titled "1-800-273-8255", the number used for The National Suicide Prevention Hotline. On the day of the song release, the lifeline received one of its highest daily call volumes.[6] It was made to bring awareness to the hotline and to the problems associated with suicide. After being featured on the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, it increased the calls to the hotline by 50% that night. On the day of the song release, "Lifeline's Facebook page saw 3 times its usual traffic" and Lifeline's "website saw a 17% increase in users in May 2017 over the previous month."[6] Many of the callers to several crisis centers have mentioned Logic's song, and a third of those callers were struggling with suicidal thoughts.[6]

The National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 required the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies to consider a three-digit number for the hotline.[7] On August 15, 2019, FCC staff recommended that the Commission designate the number 988 for the hotline.[8] On December 12, 2019, the Commission approved a proposed rule starting the process for public commenting and final rule making.[9] The rule was adopted on July 16, 2020 in final form in a 5–0 vote by the FCC.[10] The rule requires telecommunication carriers to implement the telephone number 988 to route calls to the existing service number by July 16, 2022. This provides sufficient time to expand staff and training to handle the anticipated call volume.[11] As 988 is already assigned as a local prefix in many area codes, it will require area codes to either convert to 10-digit dialing (if they are not in an overlay and already using that format) or change those numbers to another prefix in order to accommodate the assignment.

On October 17, 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661) was signed into law to support the implementation of the hotline.[12] Disability advocates, calling for equity, petitioned the FCC to implement text-to-988 service for hard-of-hearing and speech-disabled people.[13] The following month, on November 20, 2020, T-Mobile became the first wireless carrier to implement the 9-8-8 number for voice calls.[14][15][16]

In June 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partnered with SAMHSA and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide a veterans hotline to help vets in emotional crisis. Veterans who indicate that they are a U.S. military veteran by pressing one after dialing 1-800-273-TALK, are routed to the Veterans Hotline. This service caters to veteran-specific mental health care needs and helps connect vets to the VA Healthcare system. In addition to the hotline, the Veterans Hotline also offers text messaging support (by texting to 838255) as well as an online chat for those who want to use the hotline.[17]

The Veterans Hotline will also use the 9-8-8 number once it is fully implemented and like the original phone number, veterans and relatives of veterans can press one after dialing 9-8-8.[18]