WASHINGTON (WLNS) – Officials approved rules to establish a nationwide three-digit number for Americans to connect with mental health crisis counselors.

The Federal Communications Commission rules require all phone service providers to direct all “988” calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022.

Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.

During the transition to 988, Americans who need help should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800- 273-TALK).

Veterans and service members may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing “1” after dialing or texting 838255.

The two-year transition period includes the widespread network changes and providing time for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to prepare for the expected increase in the volume of calls.

1-800-273-TALK will remain available during the transition as well as after it is completed.

Suicide claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans in 2018, resulting in about one death every 11 minutes.

An FCC report to Congress in 2019 proposed establishing the easy-to-remember 988 as the “911” for suicide prevention and mental health services.

FCC Staff determined 988 was the best option for increasing access to crisis resources as well as making it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need by decreasing the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of approximately 170 crisis centers.