February 22, 2019

Adopting 611 As the National Suicide Hotline Would Save Idahoans’ Lives

We are in a suicide crisis in Idaho. Our state consistently ranks in the top 10 for suicide rates in the nation, averaging more than one a day. The crisis touches those young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural - every community in Idaho. The problem doesn’t only belong to families, communities, or the government. It belongs to all of us, and it’s going to take each one of us to turn it around. But, there is something we can do right now to help, make 611 the National Suicide Hotline.

Over the past few years, the Idaho legislature has made important investments to address this epidemic and the tremendous pain it causes. We’ve made investments in the Department of Health and Welfare, founded the “Suicide Prevention Program,” funded the Suicide Hotline, and updated the state-wide suicide prevention plan to include input from stakeholders across the state. There is no simple solution to this crisis. Communities, schools, churches, health districts, and other organizations can all have a hand in turning it around.

One of the most important strategies is to reduce barriers for those in crisis who are seeking help. Idaho’s Suicide Prevention Hotline is 208-398-HELP (4357). The National Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. No one can remember these complicated numbers.

After President Donald Trump signed into law the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, the Federal Communications Commission began looking at designating 611 – the only remaining N11 number – as the national suicide prevention hotline. It’s a simple three digit number. If adopted at the Federal level, calling 611 would be similar to dialing 911 for an emergency. The person would be connected to the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, and a counselor would be there to help.

Now that House Joint Memorial 1 has passed both houses, it will be sent to key leaders and Idaho’s Congressional delegation in Washington DC, urging them to adopt 611 for the Suicide Hotline. It would be a critical step in saving Idahoans’ lives right now.

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy,