Stewart and Hatch introduce bill to improve national suicide prevention hotline

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), along with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) introduced bi-partisan legislation to improve the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

This bill, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act, aims to designate a new national 3-digit dialing code – similar to 911 – to be used for a mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotline.

While there is currently a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, 1-800-273-TALK, it can be cumbersome to remember. This bill works to simplify the hotline phone number to make it more accessible to Americans in their time of need. This is particularly timely as May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Each year, almost 35,000 Americans tragically take their own life,” said Rep. Chris Stewart. “In addition, one person attempts to commit suicide every 38 seconds. This is devastating to families and communities. The resources we currently have in place for suicide prevention and other mental health crises are simply too difficult to find during a time of need. This bill works to streamline and provide easy access to potentially life-saving resources.”

“Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. “I am proud to work with Congressman Stewart on a National Suicide Prevention Hotline which will help Americans during a time of need. While resources do currently exist for this purpose, the national phone number is challenging to recall. We must find a solution for those struggling during a mental health crisis and provide a solution during a difficult time.”

“Every 14 hours, a Utahn commits suicide, resulting in an average of 557 deaths each year,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch. “The problem is so acute that Utah now has the 5th highest suicide rate in the nation. This trend is particularly pronounced among Utah’s youth. Utah’s teenagers desperately need our help. That’s why last December I convened a roundtable discussion with community leaders, healthcare professionals, principals, and parents at East High School in Salt Lake City. There, we discussed proven methods to destigmatize mental illness and address the teen suicide crisis. In response to what I learned at our roundtable discussion, I will introduce the bipartisan National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, which will make it easier for Americans to access the help and treatment they need when they consider harming themselves.”

“As we work to reduce the number of suicides in Indiana and across the country, this bill would examine if an easy-to-remember, 3-digit hotline would help save lives,” said Sen. Joe Donnelly. “I’m proud to work with Senator Hatch on this bipartisan effort, because we can all support working to improve mental health services and ending the stigma attached to mental health issues.”

Specifically, The National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act:

Asks the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to conduct the following study:

  • Recommend the best national three-digit number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.
  • Examine the overall effectiveness of the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line and recommend ways to improve the current system
  • Perform a cost and benefit analysis of using a three-digit dialing code for this hotline system. 

This bill is supported by:

  • Utah Department of Human Services – Read their letter of support here.
  • Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health – Read their letter of support here.
  • University of Utah’s University Neuropsychiatric Institute – Read their letter of support here.
  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 

The full text of the bill can be found here.