An ‘Astounding Victory’ For Suicide Prevention Crafted By Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner

Jenny Kane/AP Photos
In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans.

Starting in 2022, there will be a new three-digit phone number to connect to a suicide prevention hotline nationwide: 988.

Without fanfare, President Donald Trump signed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act into law Saturday. The bill was introduced by Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner last fall.

Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, and has experienced an increase in teen suicide. The coronavirus pandemic has also put a stronger focus on mental health.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased our state’s mental health needs, and during this unprecedented challenge suicide prevention is now more important than ever," Gardner said in a statement applauding the signing of the bill. "This change to 9-8-8 will make it easier for Americans dealing with a crisis to access mental health support that could save their lives."

Having a three digit number to remember instead of a 10-digit number, or having to look up a suicide prevention number, will help save time and hopefully lives during a mental health crisis, supporters of the bill have said.

The Federal Communications Commission in July approved rules to establish the 988 number by July 16, 2022.

The bill provides funding for the 988 number. It also requires a report on a strategy for suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth, minorities, rural individuals and other high risk groups.

Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, called it an "astounding victory for the suicide prevention community" on Twitter.

"As the first explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive bill to ever unanimously pass the House and Senate, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 not only makes history, but will also undoubtedly save countless lives," they said, thanking Gardner and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin.

The Senate bill had 34 cosponsors, including Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet. All members of the Colorado House delegation except Rep. Ken Buck signed onto the House version of the bill.

Gardner and other members of the delegation have also introduced others bills to provide more help for people experiencing mental health crises.

Until the new hotline goes into effect, if you are in crisis, please call the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Editor's note: Sam Brinton uses the pronoun they/them/theirs. The story has been updated to reflect the correct pronouns.