New suicide hotline number could save hundreds of West Virginians

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MONONGALIA COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) -- An FCC approval approved Wednesday evening shortens the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to just three numbers, 988. In West Virginia, more access to suicide prevention resources come at a vital time.

The number is not operational yet, but is expected before 2022

The state's suicide rate sits at eighth highest in the nation and the highest east of the Mississippi.

The 988 number is not ready to be used immediately, but the FCC set an 18-month time frame to make the hotline a reality.

Dr. Robert Bossarte, Director of the WVU School of Public Health Injury Control Research Center, says the suicide hotline is already vital to saving lives.

"It is available 24 hours a day., seven days a week. It has chat options, text options, it is the most important and readily available resource for anybody who is thinking about taking their lives," said Dr. Bossarte.

Dr. Bossarte says serious thoughts of suicide are more common than many think.

"About three-to-five percent of Americans every year. So it is not something people should be ashamed of, or that they should be worried about disclosing to a doctor or a trusted friend," said Dr. Bossarte.

The hotline also has options for veterans and service members.

"When you call that number, you will be met with a greeting that says if you're a veteran or calling about an active duty servicemember press one, and it will redirect you to the national veteran crisis line, which is staffed by professionals with the Department of Veterans Affairs," said Dr. Bossarte.

He called the new number 911, but for your mind.

"Studies have shown there is a very short amount of time, sometimes less than ten minutes between when a person decides to take their own life and when they take some sort of action on that thought. So, having immediate resources available being able to just pick up the phone and talk to someone without having to schedule an appointment or wait for someone to get to you can literally be the difference between life and death," said Dr. Bossarte.

Studies show the number one reason people do not call the suicide hotline is because they are afraid of causing a scene. Dr. Bossarte assures that only in extreme cases will 911 be called by a hotline volunteer.