Rockford Suicide Prevention Activist Says 3-Digit Crisis Hotline Will Eliminate Barriers

By: Breane Lyga

U.S. regulators are setting up a new three-digit number to reach a suicide prevention hotline.

Similar to 911 for emergencies, people will just need to dial 988 to seek help — once it’s implemented.

Shatter Our Silence is a Rockford suicide prevention organization. Its executive director Kevin Polky says depression distorts reality so anything that can simplify the process can save lives.

“[Depression] distorts the truth, it distorts how we see things, it distorts our ability to concentrate, our ability to focus.,” Polky said. “We want to try to eliminate barriers of getting that assistance.”

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK.

Polky says the 10-digit number can be hard to remember and if someone in crisis misdials, “it might be construed as ‘No one can help me.'”

Callers are routed to one of 163 crisis centers, where counselors answered 2.2 million calls last year.

Thursday’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission starts the months-long process to set up 988.

The next step is a comment period before the FCC moves to an order.

Once the 3-digit number is up and running, Polky says the next important step is education.

“It’s really going to be about individual and community awareness,” he said.

For now, though, if you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255. You do now have to be in the middle of a crisis and you do not have to be the person in a crisis to call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline.

You can also text HOME to 741741. The helpline and text line are free of charge.