The Federal Communications Commission has released a report proposing a national three-digit suicide hotline and recognizing the need to address the high risk of suicide among LGBTQ youth.
“There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations, including our veterans and LGBTQ youth,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Thursday in a press release. “Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives. This report recommends using a three-digit number to make it easier to access the critical suicide prevention and mental health services these call centers provide. I intend to move forward on this recommendation. In the meantime, my heart goes out to anyone facing a crisis. I hope they will contact 1-800-273-TALK [the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline] for support today.”
Pai’s comment came upon the issuance of a report from the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics. The report, sent to Congress as required by the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, states that a three-digit hotline “would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources.” It recommends using 988 as the number, as it could be implemented more quickly and easily than other numbers under consideration. The FCC plans to initiate a rulemaking process to create the hotline and solicit public comment on it.
The report also calls for specialized services for LGBTQ youth, veterans, and other populations at high risk.
The Trevor Project, which assists LGBTQ youth in crisis, praised the move. “The Trevor Project thanks FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for his leadership on this important issue and for making LGBTQ youth a priority in our nation’s efforts to reduce suicide,” said a statement issued by Sam Brinton, Trevor’s head of advocacy and government affairs. “We are also grateful to Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel, Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Geoffrey Starks for hearing the voices of vulnerable young people.”
To make the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline more effective for LGBTQ young people, Brinton suggested “training NSPL counselors in LGBTQ cultural competency and establishing an integrated voice response (IVR) to route calls to organizations with the appropriate specialized services to assist LGBTQ youth in crisis.”
The Trevor Project found in its inaugural National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, released in June, that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered it; 71 percent of LGBTQ youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year; and 71 percent of LGBTQ youth reported discrimination due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The FCC’s acknowledgment of the crisis is a rare LGBTQ-supportive move coming from Donald Trump’s administration. Pai, appointed by Trump to chair the FCC in 2017, was key in repealing a net neutrality rule created by the commission when Barack Obama was president. The rule required internet service providers to treat all content equally, not discriminating or charging more based on the user, content, or other factors. Many LGBTQ and progressive groups opposed the repeal. Democrats in Congress last year sought to pass a law that would reinstate the rule but failed to garner enough votes before the session ended.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.