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Oregon Sen. Wyden Calls For 911-Like Suicide Prevention Number

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden asked the Federal Communications Commission on Monday to create a three-digit phone number for those thinking about taking their lives or in need of mental health support.

In a recent study by Mental Health America, Oregon ranked behind nearly every other state in the nation because of its prevalence of mental illness and lack of access to care.

There is a national suicide prevention number, 1-800-273-TALK, but it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

Wyden said a three-digit code, along the lines of 911, would solve that problem.

“More needs to be done to help those in need, and to increase resources and improve access to mental health professionals to help those thinking of suicide,” Wyden wrote the FCC. “I believe that a 3-digit code number, similar to 911 for emergencies, would most easily come to mind for those in need of intervention services.”

The FCC responded to OPB's request for comment by confirming that the agency had received Wyden's letter, and was reviewing it.

Oregon based Lines For Life is recommending 611 as the number. CEO Dwight Holton said it’s time to make it easier for people in crisis to access support.

“We all know that for fire or rescue or physical injury, we call 911. Well, we need a 911 for the brain — and that’s what a three-digit lifeline will deliver,” Holton said.

If the number were to change, it would likely be staffed by the current national suicide prevention hotline. That hotline fields about 2 million calls a year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 40,000 Americans die each year from suicide.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.