Oct 17, 2020

On October 17th, the President signed the National Suicide Designation Act of 2020 which establishes, in law, 9-8-8 as a universal number for mental health crises and suicide prevention. The law enables states to enact fees similar to those in place for 9-1-1 that will support the need for expanded services at the local level to receive and respond to crisis calls.

The need for 9-8-8 and a continuum of crisis services is greater than ever. In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that more than one in ten adults in the U.S. had seriously considered suicide in the thirty days prior to the survey and four in ten adults experienced a behavioral health condition, like anxiety or depression.

“The need for 9-8-8 is urgent. Without appropriate care, people with mental illness end up on our streets, in jails and in emergency departments—and dying in tragic encounters with law enforcement,” said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., NAMI CEO. “By signing this bill into law, we are making real progress toward ensuring people in crisis get help, not handcuffs. We are grateful to Congress and the FCC for their efforts in moving this legislation forward and making 9-8-8 a reality.”

For years, NAMI has advocated for a mental health response to mental health crises. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act becoming law is the final hurdle for the implementation of a nationwide mental health crisis and suicide prevention number. This is a groundbreaking moment and what we need right now for the future of our country. We know that lives will be saved with the creation of 9-8-8.

We know a readily accessible crisis response system is an essential component of our nation’s strategy for mental health intervention and suicide prevention. A 24/7 crisis hotline is the gateway to any crisis system and is a core service that will connect people in crisis to mobile crisis services, crisis stabilization programs and peer support services. Bolstering crisis services in every community will provide an alternative to calling police and by providing access to the right services at the right time people struggling can get the help they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives in a community that cares.

Important Note: The three-digit number will not be operational until July 2022. If you are experiencing a crisis, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “NAMI” to 741741.

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).