GCI launches 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number for wireless, wireline customers
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alaskans experiencing mental health related distress, including thoughts of suicide, can now dial 988, a new nationwide number that that will connect callers with trained crisis counselors. The new, easy-to-remember three-digit number launched nationwide on July 16, 2022.
Easy access to support is especially critical in Alaska where suicide rates are more than twice the national average and even higher in rural areas. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is now the second most common cause of death among teenagers and young adults. The rate of suicide for young girls has tripled over the last twenty years. Black teens face similarly devastating increases. LGBTQ+ young adults contemplate suicide at a rate more than four times higher than their cisgender peers.
“Let’s all remind these young people that they are not alone. Family and friends can lend their ear and support,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement in 2021. “Even better, [in 2020] the Federal Communications Commission set up a way to make [the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline] easier to reach by simply dialing 988, a three-digit code. My predecessor in this role, Chairman Ajit Pai, deserves real kudos for making this a priority and ensuring that the 988 hotline will be available to all [in 2022].”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a network of local call centers staffed by trained crisis counselors that offer confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone of any age. The lifeline resources had previously been accessible exclusively by calling a 1-800 number.
Paving the way for the launch of 988 in Alaska required the state’s landline and wireless callers to use the Alaska 907 area code when dialing a call. This practice is common the L48 but new to most Alaskans. To make the transition, a team of approximately a dozen GCI employees were dedicated to the implementation of 10-digit dialing on GCI’s statewide network. Once this phase of the project was complete, the team turned their attention to reprogramming statewide circuits with the 988 number. This transition allows GCI to redirect any 988 calls or texts to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“In a state like Alaska where help may very well be more than a short walk or car ride away, ease of access to these lifesaving resources is crucial,” said GCI Rural Affairs Director Jenifer Nelson. “The implementation of 988 for the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline gives Alaskans in crisis ready access to a provider in Alaska who understands the unique challenges and complex dynamics of life in our hometown. 988 will save lives.”
In addition to dialing 988, those experiencing a mental health crisis can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through texting and online chats. Veterans and service members may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, as well as by chatting online at www.veteranscrisisline.net or texting 838255.
“With one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, Alaskans need to come together to build healthy communities and prevent suicide,” said Nelson. “At GCI, we’re working to do our part through the GCI Suicide Prevention Fund. Through this program, we’ve provided grant funding to 42 different organizations that demonstrate suicide prevention strategies that are best practices or are customized to the unique needs of their communities.”
GCI is committed to supporting organizations working to prevent suicide in Alaska. Since 2016, GCI has contributed more than $600,000 to local organizations for suicide prevention efforts. For more information about the GCI Suicide Prevention Fund, visit https://www.gci.com/why-gci/gcigives/gci-suicide-prevention-fund.
For more information about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, visit: https://dhss.alaska.gov/dbh/Pages/Prevention/988/default.aspx.
Headquartered in Alaska, GCI provides data, mobile, video, voice and managed services to consumer, business, government, and carrier customers throughout Alaska, serving more than 200 communities. The company has invested more than $4 billion in its Alaska network and facilities over the past 40 years and recently launched true standards-based 5G NR service in Anchorage, now the nation’s northernmost 5G service area. Learn more about GCI at www.gci.com. GCI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Broadband Corporation (Nasdaq: LBRDA, LBRDK, LBRDP). Learn more about Liberty Broadband at http://www.libertybroadband.com.