Suicide Social Media Police

In this Aug. 3, 2021, photo a man jogs past a sign about crisis counseling on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In recent years, officials who oversee so-called suicide hotspots such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, which spans New York City and New Jersey, have worked to install prevention or deterrent systems. 

The national 9-8-8 suicide hotline championed by former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has two Colorado congressman seeking to take it to texting, as well.

U.S. Reps. Ken Buck (R-Windsor) and Jason Crow (D-Aurora) made the request in a letter letter to the acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, Thursday.

Buck and Crow said texting is a favored way of communicating for young people, who might be more likely to seek help for emotional distress that way.

"As we observe National Suicide Prevention Week, we appreciate the commission’s work implementing the new 9-8-8 suicide hotline number," the Coloradans wrote. "This three-digit crisis line number—which will be operational starting next year—will help millions of Americans access mental health and counseling services from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in their time of greatest need."

Congress passed 9-8-8 hotline last year, and the need is even greater for suicide prevention during times of pandemic isolation.

"The COVID-19 pandemic compounded these trends and took a particularly devastating toll on the mental health of young people," the letter states. "During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal thinking and attempts among youth were up 25% over a similar period in 2019."

The full letter states:

Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel,

As we observe National Suicide Prevention Week, we appreciate the Commission’s work implementing the new 988 suicide hotline number. This three-digit crisis line number—which will be operational starting next year—will help millions of Americans access mental health and counseling services from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in their time of greatest need. As the Commission considers next steps, we urge you to adopt a text-to-988 option, which will expand the reach of the hotline and make these critical resources more accessible to individuals in crisis.

Last year, Congress unanimously passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to create a short, easy-to-remember three-digit phone number to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Even before the pandemic, mental illness rates and suicidal ideation among adults were on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic compounded these trends and took a particularly devastating toll on the mental health of young people. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal thinking and attempts among youth were up 25% over a similar period in 2019.

As 988 implementation continues, we urge the Commission to require providers to support text messages to 988. As the commission recognized in its April Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, young people and other at-risk populations are often most comfortable communicating via text. By allowing a text-to-988 option in addition to voice call, the Commission can lower the bar to entry and improve access to crisis counseling and mental health services. This will save lives.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this request.

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