East Moline man who lost son to suicide: 3-digit prevention hotline number is “critical”

EAST MOLINE, Illinois - When 19-year-old Foster Atwood took his life in July of 2017, his family began to raise awareness about the resources available to people who feel suicidal in the Quad Cities.

One way they do that is by making sure people understand ways to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

"We do everything we can to get the number out there," said Foster's dad Kevin Atwood.

When Foster died, his family started up a suicide awareness organization called Foster's Voice. On August 19,  Foster's Voice turned two-years-old.

At the same time, there's new hope on the horizon.

On August 15, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommended to Congress that the phone number "9-8-8" be designated to become the National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Hotline.

"This is a big step. It`s a big step for our area, it`s a big step for the nation, but were not done," said Atwood.

He has been pushing for the new three-digit phone number since before President Trump signed The National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 into law in August of 2018.

"Everyday that we wait, and everyday that goes by, we lose more lives," said Atwood.

Atwood said shortening the hotline can help save lives in the Quad Cities.

"You`ll know the number. Everybody remembers 3-digits. Just like we remember 9-1-1, you`ll remember 9-8-8," he said.

The recommendation from the FCC comes after a year-long study found that shortening the number can help curve the suicide epidemic that currently exists in the United States.

In 2018, about 2.2 Million people contacted the hotline for help. Another 100,000 people chatted with help online.

"At the end of the day, i'm just a sad dad who doesn't want any more pain, doesn't want any more loss of life," said Atwood as he now hopes this new number can take effect and help save even more lives.

Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai said he does intend to move forward on this recommendation.

Until the three-digit number is in effect, call 1-800-273-TALK.

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