State advocates respond to FCC’s approval for 3-digit national suicide hotline starting in 2022


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The country has seen crisis throughout the past several months, an ongoing pandemic and civil unrest over social change.

Experts say these events can cause stress and anxiety, leading to more suicides.

This month, the Federal Communications Commission’s unanimously voted to finalize 988 as the new number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

The new three-digit number is slated to go into effect sometime during 2022. The current hotline is the 10-digit number: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Brian Sullivan, a mental health advocate in Tennessee, said the final approval has been a long time coming, “…this is something that myself and other advocates have been hoping for.”

In early 2006, Sullivan almost died by suicide.

“I did not see any way out other than death. I had these full bottles of pain killers and one day I had made that decision, and just downed that bottle.”

Fortunately, Sullivan survived and was able to seek help.

“I started to begin to learn the tools to live a healthier life and to combat the issues that were facing me,” said Sullivan, “…for years I struggled with my sexuality, you know what my sexual orientation was, and then the years of conversion therapy to try to make me straight.”

A spokesperson for the nonprofit, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, said the agency had spent years advocating for the change.

“We’ve sent word to over 26,000 Tennesseans and encouraged them to contact their legislators,” said Grace Eakin, “…in the same way we have integrated and spread 911 into our lives, I think 988 is going to be just as important.”

Sullivan said the length of the current hotline’s number isn’t always feasible in crisis situations, “You are contemplating ending your own life, in that moment, you’re not going to remember a ten-digit number, it just doesn’t happen.”

He added that the FCC’s approval will provide hope for a more resourceful future, especially to those who’ve survived suicidal ideations.

“It could not have come at a more necessary time than right now. We know that everyone is at home, this the absolute worst type of thing for someone who is in recovery or battling mental health issues,” said Sullivan

To anyone struggling, Sullivan offered this message, “I survived it, you can too, and I believe in you.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are people who want to help at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, text “TN” to 741-741, or call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

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