Mesa County leads the state in suicide. United States Senator Cory Gardner says, “The tragic fact is, we lose a Coloradan to death by suicide on average every seven hours, and we must keep fighting to provide mental heath support to Coloradans in need, particularly in this time of crisis.”
The Senator has been working a bill for over two years that he believes will save lives. Michelle Hoy with Mind Springs Health says, “Getting mental health help is difficult and confusing at best right now.”
Currently, most suicide prevention hotlines are up to eleven digits long because they are 1-800 numbers, and depending on where you live, the numbers are different but, a United States senator and a new bill wants to change that with an idea that’s worked for over 50 years. “If you are physically hurt, you call 911. It’s three numbers, it’s easy to remember. Everyone knows how to do it, “says Hoy.
United States Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) says, “It’s the same purpose behind 9-8-8. Somebody who’s in that moment of need, it’s easy to remember.”
But, will this number save lives? Michelle thinks so, and so does Senator Gardner. “Between 2014 and 2017 suicides between the ages of 10 years old and 18 years olds doubled. And so, the 9-8-8 number will save lives, ” says Senator Gardner.
Senator Gardner voted for the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, in 2018, which directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to evaluate using a three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. He says the FCC came up with the 9-8-8 number because it’s 3 digits and easy to remember, and now two years later, on Wednesday, May 13 it was unanimously passed by the Senate, but the bill still has to make its way through the House and be signed by the President. “I hope we can move quickly because these calls aren’t stopping because congress isn’t acting. it continues and we need to make sure we continue our work, ” says Senator Gardner and, after two years getting to this point, the work has just started.
Calls to the mental health crisis line in Colorado have spiked 47 percent due in part to COVID-19, and 60 percent of those calls are directly related related to the pandemic. Senator Gardner thinks there will be even more. “There will be more volume calling into the hotlines. I’m working with my colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to get an additional $80 million to our prevention hotline efforts.”
If you’re in a mental health crisis and need someone to talk to you can call Mind Springs Health Crisis Services 24 hours a day at 1-888-207-4004.
If you’re a Veteran and you need help, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.