American Association of Suicidology Urges Congress to Fund Crisis Services at Scale
Contact: Chris Maxwell, Communications Coordinator
Washington, D.C. (August 15, 2019) – The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) applauds the FCC for its work and recommendations to proceed with the unique, 988 three-digit telephone code for mental health and suicide prevention services. It is now time to ensure these services are properly standardized and funded at the scale of the problem. Nearly 7 million people are directly affected by suicide every year, with almost 1.5 million people attempting suicide in that same timeframe. These are rates that require solid infrastructure to adequately and compassionately address the demand.
“Today we are thankful to the Federal Communications Commission for their recognition that now is the time for a nationwide three-digit phone line for mental health and suicide prevention crisis,” said Becky Stoll, LCSW, AAS Crisis Center Division Chair, and Vice President, Crisis & Disaster Management at Centerstone. “Now we turn to our colleagues in Congress for further conversation on this issue including funding. Having this number in the United States will surely help in making great strides to break down the walls of stigma around mental health issues.”
Over the years, we’ve seen the current system struggle to adequately fund crisis centers, both at a regional level, and during surges in demand (e.g. celebrity suicides). Smaller crisis centers, still answering thousands of calls a year, are quietly closing their doors.
“The life-and-death nature of these services demand that a client-centric, population-based funding model be put in place in all states to ensure high-quality crisis services have sustainable funding for 24/7/365 availability and call volume surges,” said Anthony Wood, AAS Board Chair.
Likewise, it is imperative that crisis centers answering the 3-digit crisis telephone number must adhere to evidence-based policies, protocols, and staff/volunteer training like those that meet the minimum of AAS’s Crisis Center accreditation.
“We wouldn’t ask 911 operators or first responders to do their jobs with insufficient tools and resources,” said Travis Atkinson, AAS Crisis Center Committee Chair. “Crisis Center staff are commissioned to perform a very serious task–support people who are suicidal or in severe emotional distress. We owe it to them to provide supreme support through funding and resources to encourage their ongoing sustainability.”
Additionally, the public has a minimal expectation for crisis services to evolve beyond the analog system currently in place to include revolutionary digital technologies focused on security, privacy, and reliability. These features must be included in future iterations of national crisis intervention and suicide prevention infrastructure.
For the Media: Responsible reporting on suicide, including stories of hope and resilience, can prevent more suicides. Please visit the Suicide Reporting Recommendations for more information.
About AAS: Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, PhD, AAS promotes the research of suicide and its prevention, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. The membership of AAS includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center volunteers, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and a variety of lay persons who have in interest in suicide prevention. You can learn more about AAS at www.suicidology.org.