Skip to main content

FCC approves ‘988’ for texting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Next summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be opening up a new 3-digit dialing code to help those in crisis easily reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by either text or phone call.

The FCC voted unanimously today to improve access to the Lifeline by allowing people to send a text message to 988, which it hopes will make it easier for people in need to contact a crisis counselor by offering a short and memorable number that can receive texts from any smartphone or even from a computer.

On an average day, nearly 6,000 Americans call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline @800273TALK to seek help. That’s roughly one call every 15 seconds. #SuicidePrevention

— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcelFCC) November 18, 2021

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel pointed out on Twitter that nearly 6,000 Americans place calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline every day, which works out to one call every 15 seconds. The Text-to-988 option promises to make the service more accessible to those with difficulties speaking on the phone, as well as folks who may just prefer more anonymity.

“Quick and easy access to mental health and crisis counseling services is critical,” the FCC said in a press release. “In 2020, 44,834 individuals died by suicide in the United States, and evidence suggests the toll of the global pandemic has only increased the strain on many Americans’ mental health and well-being. Suicide significantly impacts at-risk communities, including youth, the Black community, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and people who have speech disabilities that affect communication. For individuals in crisis, text messaging can make it easier to contact a crisis counselor by allowing for a certain level of anonymity rather than engaging in a phone conversation.”

Following a 2019 FCC report to congress that recommended establishing a 3-digit number for the Lifeline, the FCC voted last year to designate 988 to route calls to the service, which has been available for some time as a standard 10-digit toll-free number.

However, this prior action only affected voice phone calls. Today’s decision expands that with new rules that will require carriers to support text messaging to 988, with text messages sent to that number routed to the Lifeline’s 10-digit number. Text providers will also need to take steps to ensure that messages are in a format that the Lifeline is capable of receiving. 

The 988 number will go live for both calls and texts on July 16, 2022. Until then, Americans who need help can still call the standard number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), or use the Lifeline’s web-based online chat service.

Editors' Recommendations

Jesse Hollington
Jesse has been a technology enthusiast for his entire life — he probably would have been born with an iPhone in his hand…
Mint Mobile Memorial Day deal: 50% off 3 months of wireless
Mint Mobile

It can be really hard to choose a mobile service provider, especially if you're dissatisfied with the major players, like Verizon and T-Mobile. However, one of our favorites, Mint Mobile, is making it an easier choice with this deal that gives you 50% off for 3 months of its service. Normally, service is $30 per month (or $90 for the 3 months) but you can get it now for $15 per month with an upfront payment of $45 for the three months. That's really cheap for an unlimited plan like this. So, tap the button below to secure your order today (the best deal, that includes free Paramount+ Essential ends on 5/31) or keep reading for the most important details.

Why you should try Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile is considered on of the best MVNOs, or Mobile Virtual Network Operators, that you can try right now. These services use the reliable networks of the larger companies, but at their own renegade rates, giving you cheaper service. So, what's the catch? There's not really one if you're looking for affordable service. Your speed will slow down after the first 40GB of data you use a month, but this is a lot if you connect to WiFi at home (I've used just 10 GB of app data in the past 3 weeks).

Read more
Flash deal: Get $100 off the latest iPad Mini for Memorial Day
An iPad Mini standing in tent mode.

Best Buy has one of the best iPad deals around but it only lasts for as long as today does. Right now, you can buy the latest Apple iPad mini for $400 meaning you’re saving $100 off the regular price of $500. A great and highly portable tablet, it’s sure to be a hit with Apple fans and more. Here’s what you need to know about it before you buy but remember that you only have until the end of the day to grab it for this price.

Why you should buy the Apple iPad mini
The best iPad around for anyone seeking something small, the Apple iPad mini is a “little powerhouse” as our review explains. It has an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display with True Tone and wide color support so it’s small but looks gorgeous. It’s powered by an A15 Bionic chip so it can handle quite a lot including many games or simply multitasking.

Read more
Not getting text notifications on your iPhone? Here’s how to fix it
The home screen on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.

Are you not receiving text notifications on your iPhone 15 Pro or another iPhone model? Concerned about missing important messages? Worry not! You should be able to get things fixed in no time at all.

Read more