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The suicide hotline will be getting the long-awaited update next summer with more than $280 million being allocated to help smooth the transition from a 10-digit number to three.

People in crisis and those trying to help them will have a new phone number, 988, to reach the national suicide prevention network starting in July.

People who call, text, or chat 988 will be able to reach trained counselors who belong to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. Counselors at more than 180 local centers listen to people in crisis and provide support, connecting them with other services as needed. According to the Lifeline, the new dialing code will be available throughout the country starting July 16.

“We know that remembering a three-digit number beats a ten-digit number any day, particularly in times of crisis, and I encourage every state to rev up planning to implement 988 for the sake of saving lives,” White House Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Suicide rates

In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 47,000 lives, but dropped to 11th in 2020, mostly because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, even as the nation has witnessed a surprising decrease in rates of suicide across the general population, rates for Black Americans turned drastically in the opposite direction.

For instance, between March and June of 2020, suicide rates among White residents decreased by 45%, while they increased by 94% for Black residents.

Texting the hotline will soon be an option

Recently, the FCC voted unanimously to require phone companies to support texting to 988 as well. Today, many people are more inclined to text rather than call, and the mode of communication shouldn’t matter when someone is in distress and wants help.

The lifeline has received more than 20 million calls since its inception in 2005, with nearly 2.4 million last year, according to the network’s website. Its current 10-digit number will remain available even after 988 is launched.

To access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-8255.

For more resources on how to help prevent suicides, click here.

Mike Creef is a fighter for equality and justice for all. Growing up bi-racial (Jamaican-American) on the east coast allowed him to experience many different cultures and beliefs that helped give him a...

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