Today, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) announced that his legislation to designate 9-8-8 as the universal telephone number for the national suicide prevention and mental health hotline will officially take effect on July 16, 2022.
In 2020, Rep. Stewart introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). The legislation passed the House and Senate, and it was signed into law by President Trump in October 2020. After nearly two years of preparation, hiring, and training, the 9-8-8 number will officially go live on all devices in the United States beginning July 16, 2022.
"Suicide is a tragic issue that hits home for everyone," said Rep. Stewart. "It is a top ten cause of death nationwide -- as well as in my own home state -- and the pandemic only intensified the problem. But the new 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention Lifeline can reverse this trend. This is a historic opportunity to ensure the growing number of people in crisis can get the help they need. This new option will save thousands of lives and steer thousands of people into more appropriate treatment. But the work is far from over. I look forward to that continued work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and I will never stop fighting to improve the mental health of our nation."
"We set out to create a three-digit mental health hotline because every American needs to know it is okay to reach out for help, and we need to know how to get that help if we are in need," said Rep. Moulton. "Just as we all know to call 9-1-1 if our house is on fire, we will soon be able to call 9-8-8 if we or our loved ones are experiencing a mental health crisis. I'm grateful to all of the practitioners on the frontlines who answer calls and help so many Americans. There will be challenges as we get 9-8-8 off the ground, but the bottom line is that it will save lives on day one."
All telecommunications carriers must provide access to 9-8-8 by July 16, 2022. This new option will direct calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a switchboard that provides free crisis counseling and emotional support to more than 2 million callers a year. It also connects them to one of more than 180 crisis centers nationwide. This will serve as a universal entry point so that anyone can reach a trained crisis counselor who can provide care no matter where you live.