Trump signs law making 988 the national suicide prevention hotline starting in 2022, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a mental health crisis

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Sue-Ann Siegel works a shift monitoring the Montgomery County Hotline from her home office fielding calls, including from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on March 18, 2020 in Chevy Chase, MD.
  • President Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law on Saturday that designates 988 as the universal telephone number for the national suicide prevention hotline starting in 2022, according to CNN.
  • The bill will change the hotline's number to three digits from what is it now, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
  • It also directs health agencies to develop plans to support communities that are at a higher risk for suicide, such as minorities, LGBTQ youth, and people in rural counties.
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President Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law on Saturday that designates 988 as the universal telephone number for the national suicide prevention hotline starting in 2022, the White House announced.

The bill will change the hotline's number to three digits from what is it now, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

The National Suicide Hotline and Designation Act had previously received approval from the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Federal Communications Commission.

"988 has an echo of the 911 number we all know as an emergency number," Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said last year, according to the BBC. "We believe that this three-digit number dedicated for this purpose will help ease access to crisis services."

The bill requires telephone providers to implement the 988 number and allows states to collect and direct fees towards local crisis centers in anticipation of increased volume.

It also directs government health agencies to develop plans for improving support to communities that are at higher risk for suicide, such as minorities, LGBTQ youth, and people living in rural counties.

The news comes as the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic fallout has taken a toll on mental health across the US, especially for young Americans.

Prior to the pandemic, suicide was already a public health concern. In 2018, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the US, according to the CDC. It was the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 34, and the 4th for people aged 35 to 54.

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