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Sean D. Reyes
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FCC Unanimously Designates 988 as New Three-Digit Suicide Hotline

June 16, 2020

Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously to designate 988 as the new three-digit suicide hotline.

Currently, callers can reach the hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). With the FCC’s ruling, service providers will have a two-year transition period, with implementation of the three-digit hotline to be finalized by July 16, 2022. During this transition, all crisis calls to the hotline should continue to be directed to the current, 10-digit number. After the transition is completed, callers will still be able to reach the hotline by calling the 10-digit number.  

The designation of the three-digit hotline comes at a time when it is needed most. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Utah, suicide is the 7th leading cause of death, putting Utah with the 6th highest rate of suicide in the nation.

The idea for a three-digit suicide prevention hotline was first conceived right here in Utah. Utah Senator Dan Thatcher first proposed the idea for a three-digit suicide prevention line in 2012, but it didn’t gain traction in the Legislature at that time. Senator Thatcher partnered with the Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, Wade Farraway, Missy Larsen, and others at the Utah Attorney General’s Office in 2014. The group started the SafeUT app as a way to reach Utahns in crisis while still campaigning for the three-digit number. In 2017, the group enlisted the help of Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who presented the idea on the federal level. This has led to the designation of the three-digit number 988.

We are grateful for our partners for working diligently with the Utah Attorney General’s Office to get a three-digit crisis line off the ground and to the FCC for prioritizing suicide prevention.

If you or someone you know is struggling and/or having thoughts of suicide, please reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741), or message a trained crisis counselor through the SafeUT app. These support lines are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Read the FCC’s press release here.

A Look into SafeUTNG

December 16, 2019

Since 2015, the SafeUT app has provided professional mental health support for youth in crisis. Lives have been saved amid tens of thousands of chats and tips generated on the app. Now, there is a similar resource for members of Utah’s Army and Air National Guard: SafeUTNG.

SafeUTNG is a new suicide prevention, crisis text and tipline, available to Utah military service members and their families. Like the SafeUT app, SafeUTNG provides a safe, confidential platform to communicate with a crisis counselor 24/7.

In 2018, 541 service members died by suicide. According to a report by the Department of Defense in September 2019, the suicide rate in the National Guard was significantly higher than the active duty and Reserve’s. The most recent figure is 30.6 deaths per 100,000 service members. Additionally, the majority of service members who die by suicide were not diagnosed with mental illness. SafeUTNG hopes this new, multi-faceted platform will make a difference and save lives, similarly to the success of the SafeUT app.

The SafeUTNG app is an extension of SafeUT, which provides real-time crisis intervention to Utah’s students, parents, and educators, and works similarly. Crisis help is available through texting and calling. Additionally, the app allows service members to submit tips anonymously. The app is managed by the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) in partnership with the Utah National Guard.

“Speaking up when in crisis, whether it’s in person or over the phone, can be uncomfortable for many,” said Robert Spencer, Suicide Prevention Program Manager of the Utah Army National Guard in a release regarding the SafeUTNG app. “Communicating via apps or text has been the main way in which Soldiers and Airmen prefer to correspond.” 

The app emphasizes that it should not be used in an emergency. Instead, users are encouraged to dial 911.

CrisisLine Counselors can assist with a wide variety of problems including:

  • Emotional crisis
  • Grief and loss
  • Drug and alcohol problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide prevention

SafeUTNG is free and available for download from the Google Play Store and the App Store.

FCC Votes to Proceed Designation of 988 as New Suicide Prevention Hotline Number

December 13, 2019

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to proceed with the process of designating 988 as the new, nationwide, 3-digit number dedicated as a suicide prevention and mental health crisis line. This number will replace the current, 12-digit number 1-800-273-8255.

“This designation will help ease access to crisis services, reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health condition, and ultimately save lives,” the FCC said in a release Thursday.

This decision follows a report the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics sent to Congress in August recommending a 3-digit dialing code as the crisis hotline. The report noted a more than 20% increase in suicides in over most of the nation from 1999 to 2019. It also noted increasing suicide rates in Veterans and the LGBTQ community.

“This is 911 for mental and behavioral crises. And this emergency number started right here in Utah, with amazing partners like Senator Daniel Thatcher and this office demanding more be done to address the alarming suicide rates in this nation,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes.

“We couldn’t get it passed at the state level, so we pushed to the federal level. Senator Hatch and Congressman Stewart were our champions. It’s amazing to finally see it come to fruition. It is one of the achievements in public service of which I am most proud.

“A simplified three-digit suicide and mental and behavioral health hotline will make a huge difference when it comes to intervention and prevention. It will save lives! No doubt,” Attorney General Reyes added.

All telecommunication carriers and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol service providers must implement the 988 number within the next 18 months.

The Commission will begin taking public comment on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking following publication in the Federal Register. Following review of that public record, the Commission will move toward final rules.

The change to the 988 hotline will not be implemented for several months. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or contemplating suicide, please use the SafeUT app to speak with a crisis counselor for free or call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Utah Suicide Rate Decreases for First Time in Over a Decade

November 15, 2019

For the first time in over a decade, Utah’s suicide rate fell slightly in 2019, according to the fiscal year 2019 report of State Suicide Prevention Programs by the state Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. This decrease means that we are doing something right, but the work isn’t done. Now is the time to increase our efforts.

According to the report, the suicide rates dropped from 22.7 to 22.2. “The decrease is not statistically significant nor does it represent a trend change, however, it is worth noting given the year-over-year increase for many years,” said the report. Suicide remains a leading cause of death in the State of Utah. An average of 592 Utahns die by suicide each year, and an average of 4,538 Utahns attempt suicide.

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Marjorie Cortez in the Deseret News: After decade of increases, Utah’s suicide rate dropped slightly in 2018, report says.

At first glimpse, there was a lot of excitement, even tears, when the 2018 data indicated Utah’s suicide rate had not increased over the previous year, said Michael Staley, with the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner.

“Then there was this moment of pause, where we kind of had to look around and say, ‘But what does this mean?’

“I think that is so important to remind folks this is not the time to pack our bags and go home and call this a win. This is the time to double down on what we’re doing because there’s evidence here, even though it’s kind of arbitrary and not causal, but there seems to be some suggestion here that what we’re doing is working,” said Staley, who coordinates suicide prevention research.

Barry Rose, crisis services manager for the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, said the slight decrease “at least indicates we’re on the right track and we’ve made some investments that are paying off.”

Reducing suicide deaths “was really our first major goal, not that our group here is the reason this happened, but we would like to think we were part of it. I think all of us collectively, our goal as the state, county mental health division and everyone involved, is just to see we could stop it from increasing, at least to level off, and continue to work toward decreasing those numbers,” he said.

Much work remains, Staley s