Moulton, Stewart pen op-ed backing three-digit suicide prevention hotline

Moulton, Stewart pen op-ed backing three-digit suicide prevention hotline
© Greg Nash

Reps. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Wall Street ends volatile month in major test for Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Hurricane headed for Florida changes Trump's travel plans MORE (D-Mass.), a 2020 presidential candidate, and Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartMoulton, Stewart pen op-ed backing three-digit suicide prevention hotline FCC proposes new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number GOP lawmaker's town hall erupts in shouting over mass shootings, Trump MORE (R-Utah) penned an op-ed in The Washington Post Tuesday urging Congress to support efforts to implement a three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The congressmen, both veterans, cited the rising suicide rate in the general population and the disproportionate frequency of suicide among former service members as evidence that Congress must take action.

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“It is time to treat suicide like any other life-threatening emergency, and Congress should take the lead,” Stewart and Moulton wrote. “We have joined forces across the aisle to start that conversation, and we believe this issue can unite Congress at a time when it is deeply divided.”

The op-ed comes after the pair sponsored the Suicide Hotline Designation Act this week, which would implement a dialing code of 988 to immediately contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also backed the code last week to make it faster and easier for Americans to access the hotline’s resources.

The legislation allows states to collect fees, along the lines of those in place for 911, to improve and support local crisis call centers associated with the 988 national network. They said the increased resources could help the hotline grapple with rising call volumes.

“Nothing haunts us more than the thought of someone dialing 988 only to hear endless ringing or an answering machine,” the two lawmakers wrote.

“We recognize that this legislation alone is not a panacea. We must also start talking to each other about mental-health care so that seeking help for everything from suicidal thoughts to addiction to depression is as routine as going to the doctor for a broken arm or an annual checkup,” they added. “In the meantime, this legislation can save lives.”

The two lawmakers have been outspoken about suicide prevention for years. Stewart last year helped push a bill that called for a study of the national hotline to examine the best three-digit dialing code, and Moulton, one of two dozen Democrats seeking the party's 2020 White House nomination, has been vocal about his experience with post-traumatic stress disorder after being deployed to Iraq. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country and that rates have reached the highest level since World War II.

The current phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.