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Bill to designate 988 as national suicide hotline number heads to president’s desk

FILE: Rep. Chris Stewart. Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. Chris Stewart’s bill to create a three-digit national suicide hotline is heading to the president’s desk. The Suicide Prevention Act would establish 988 as the national hotline number for those experiencing mental health emergencies.

The effort to designate a short universal phone number for the National Suicide Hotline was started by Stewart (R-UT) and retired Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in 2017 and passed the Hosue and Senate with bipartisan support.

 

“If your house is on fire, call 911. If you need the police, call 911. If you’re in the middle of a mental health crisis, 988 is going to get you help,” Stewart said on the House floor yesterday.

“If you are in the middle of a mental health crisis and you need help if you’re worried about one of your children, your son, your daughter, or a roommate, a friend.  The problem is, no one knows the number. And the second problem is the number is different if you’re calling in Salt Lake City it’s a different number than if you’re calling from New York or if you’re calling in  California or even another part of Utah,” he continued.

That lack of a single resource for those in need was the reason Stewart says he’s pushed for the last four years to set aside the 988 number as the national suicide hotline. In addition to the three-digit number, the bill will also be paired with a provision to enhance real-time data collection, something that he says will allow states to identify trends and effectively intervene.

“This bill is going to make a difference, it really will save lives. After nearly four years, I’m just so glad to finally be at this point where the president can sign it into law,” Stewart told Utah’s Morning News.

“I have to give acknowledgment to the fact that this was based on an idea and a model that was, once again, based on something that was done here in Utah.”

Stewart says the FCC will have 1 year to make sure that they will have the technology in place to ensure that no matter where in the country someone is if they call 988 they will be put in touch with a trained professional.

According to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the 988 suicide hotline number will be implemented by 2022. 


Listen to the full conversation on Utah’s Morning News.


Know the warning signs

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

The following are warning signs of immediate risk. Call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing the following:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themself or talking of wanting to hurt or kill themself
  • Looking for ways to kill themself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary
    Additional Warning Signs:
  • Increased substance use
  • No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling trapped — like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes
    Courtesy of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition

Read more of KSL Newsradio’s coverage of “Healing Utah’s Teenagers” here.

KSL’s combined coverage “Reasons to Hope” is found here.

And resources for help around Utah are here.