Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved a a measure to create a national three-digit phone number -- similar to 911 for emergencies -- that connects with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
The FCC Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics submitted a joint report to Congress outlining the proposal to use 9-8-8 for the hotline. President Donald Trump signed a law last year that ordered the FCC to select a number that's easy to remember during crisis.
If established, the number will provide assistance with suicide prevention and mental health. The FCC said now is a critical time for "rapid access to crisis intervention."
The proposal must undergo a public review period and final FCC vote before it can take effect.
The commission said the new number will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access "potentially life-saving resources."
Statistics show that between 1999 and 2016, the number of suicides increased in 49 of the 50 states -- an the growth was greater than 20 percent in half of them. About 2,000 more suicides were reported between 2016 and 2017, the FCC report said.
More than 20 American military veterans die by suicide every day, the report said, and young members of the lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender community are three times more likely to consider suicide.
"There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations," FCC chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. "Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives."