WASHINGTON - Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission to act as soon as possible to establish a new three-digit phone hotline for mental health crisis and suicide prevention.
Citing alarming suicide statistics from Oregon that have been reported recently as part of the statewide “Breaking the Silence” reporting project, Wyden said time is of the essence.
“For the past three decades, Oregon’s suicide rates have been higher than the national average,” Wyden said in his letter to FCC Chair Ajit Pai. “Suicide kills more than 800 Oregonians a year."
“These numbers are devastating,” Wyden wrote. “But, unfortunately, they are not isolated. Suicide rates in Oregon and across the country have steadily increased since 2000. From 2000 to 2017, Oregon’s suicide rates increased 35 percent. It’s clear this public health crisis is not going away, and, to put it in stark terms, the current system of help is nowhere near adequate.”
Following up on his December 2018 letter urging adoption of a three-digit dialing code for suicide prevention and mental health crises, Wyden wrote Pai Wednesday that the success of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 depends on timely action by the FCC.
“Currently, those in need of help may seek out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. This line has been an invaluable resource, but there is room to improve,” Wyden wrote.
“After growing from just a few calls in its first year to more than 2 million in 2017 alone, it is long past time that the Commission establish a true lifeline dedicated just to the pressing issue of suicide crises. It remains my hope that the Commission will designate a simple, easy-to-remember, three-digit code as a Behavioral Health and Suicide Crisis Lifeline consistent with the intent of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act.”
A copy of the letter is available here.