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FCC proposes text support for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The expansion could make crucial help more accessible.
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 28: Sunday, a volunteer at the Samaritans Call Center takes a call at the office in Boston on Feb. 28, 2020. The volunteers answer phone calls from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|October 27, 2021 3:19 PM

The FCC wants to make it easier to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for those who can't (or prefer not to) call. Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed an order that would let people text 988 to reach the Lifeline. Carriers would have to automatically route texts to 988 to the Lifeline's full number (1-800-273-8255) no later than July 16th, 2022. Providers would have to support every messaging format the Lifeline can handle, and the FCC would explore the possibility of texting the Veterans Crisis Line.

The move would not only accommodate younger people more familiar with texting, but would make the Lifeline more accessible to people with disabilities, according to the FCC. The regulator also suggested this would offer a "certain level of anonymity" for people who aren't comfortable with phone conversations. The FCC will hold a vote on the proposal at its November 18th meeting.

The Lifeline already supports online chats through the web. As Rosenworcel explained, however, this is a bid to "meet [people] where they are" and give them a choice in a moment of crisis. Americans would have more opportunities to get help, and might be more inclined to get that help in the first place.

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In the U.S., the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME to 741741 (US), 686868 (Canada), or 85258 (UK).

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