BELL COUNTY, TEXAS — For most folks who are in distress, calling the national suicide prevention lifeline is a call for help.
“People often misunderstand suicide, and they think, oh, once somebody is suicidal, there's nothing you can do to stop them,” Dr. Sam Fiala, the chair of the counseling and psychology department at Texas A&M Central Texas said. “That's typically not the case.”
The number for the hotline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), but is transiting to just three digits, 9-8-8.
It’s a change that is slated to happen by July 16, 2022, but also one Dr. Fiala feels is necessary.
“You don't have some long seven digit or 10 digit number you have to memorize, to call and get help,” he explained. “Certainly when people are experiencing suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts, they are in distress, and it can be difficult to think clearly.”
The Federal Communications Commission approved the change on July 16, 2020, but now folks with the area codes 254, 361, 409, 806, 830, 915 and 940 must always dial all 10 digits, even if it's a local call.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas said several of those phone numbers had 988 the area code, creating confusion if only the last seven numbers of the phone number were dialed.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas is urging folks with those area codes to begin the practice now , because come October 24, 2021 all “local calls dialed with only seven digits will reach a recording prompting them to hang up and dial again using both the area code with the seven-digit telephone number,” a press release from the PUC said.
“That minor inconvenience is offset by the advantage of having better access to the suicide hotline for people who really need it,” Fiala said in response to the change. “That's a chance to again, help people.”
It’s an inconvenience he described as being life or death.
“They're super important, they save lives, I think it's undoubtable, that suicide hotlines have an impact,” he ended.