Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced their plan to finalize a 3-digit phone number for a suicide prevention hotline: 9-8-8. This is a massive step forward in providing support for thousands of Americans suffering from suicidal thoughts.
The development of an easy-to-remember suicide hotline very well may save thousands of lives. Why it is needed is something people should examine.
The suicide rate has been rising exponentially for decades, according to a data brief from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. From 1999 to 2017, the U.S. suicide rate increased by 33%. In 2016, “the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and the fourth leading cause for ages 35-54” was suicide.
In Dec. 2019, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai—yes, the same Ajit Pai who internet users consider the enemy of net neutrality—proposed the number as the national suicide prevention hotline. Last week, the FCC announced the finalized plans. On July 16, the FCC will take a final vote on the new number.
“988 has an echo of the 911 number we all know as an emergency number,” Pai said in his proposal. “At this very moment, there are Americans all across this country who are struggling. They are searching for answers. They are searching for hope. They are searching for a connection. And to them, I say: you are not alone. The FCC is committed to helping. The people in this room are committed to helping.”
One of the dedicated people Pai mentioned was Sam Brinton, the Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for the Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project is an organization that provides support and suicide intervention services to young LGBTQ people. It has also been working with the FCC to develop this new plan for the suicide epidemic.
“Suicide remains the second leading cause of death among young people, and LGBTQ youth are at increased risk,” Brinton stated. “Once this policy is implemented, calling 988 will provide the millions of Americans experiencing a mental health crisis the opportunity to more easily get access to the care they need and know that care will respect them for who they are as LGBTQ.”
In 2019, The Trevor Project conducted a survey on LGBTQ youth. It accumulated over 34 thousand responses from people aged 13 to 24 around the world. The organization focused on the United States, only analyzing 25,896 submissions.
The survey showed some shocking numbers.
Of nearly 26 thousand respondents, 39% said they had considered committing suicide within the past year. We need more support for about 10 thousand young people who, at one point, thought about taking their own lives.
We need more support for the 22 thousand respondents who said someone tried to convince them to change their gender identity or sexual orientation. Young LGBTQ people who have experienced conversion therapy are twice as likely to attempt suicide than others in the community.
We need more support for the 71% who experienced discrimination for identifying as part of the LGBTQ community.
About 87% of the respondents reported that a crisis intervention organization designed for LGBTQ youth is important to them. They want, need, and deserve support.
Clearly, it is important for marginalized people to get outside support. It can be damaging when those around them do not accept an integral part of said person.
In general, suicidal thoughts plague a large portion of the current U.S. population. Overall, suicide has been ranked as the tenth leading cause of death for all ages since 2008, according to the data brief. However, the new partnership with LGBTQ advocates and the United States government indicates positive changes in the future for everyone.
The Trevor Project’s survey only takes a look at the LGBTQ youth within the United States. A wide scale of the LGBTQ community has yet to be properly studied. This includes the older generations and people across the world.
“It has never been more clear that our national mental health infrastructure requires reinforcement and innovation to meet the growing need,” Brinton stated. “We look forward to working with the FCC and Congress to meet the challenge and save lives.”
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