KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and in 2017 Tennessee's suicide rate was two points higher than the national average.   

"When you need help right away, you need it right away," Mental Health Association of East Tennessee CEO Ben Harrington said. "About 1 in 5 people need some type of mental health treatment today, and only about a third of those actually get help."   

It is an issue that continuously catches national attention. Last week the FCC submitted a report to Congress on the issue. It noted changing the national hotline to three digits could improve access to Americans in crisis.

Harrington said the Commission may be on to to something.

"A quick number, easy to remember is going to speed things up," he said. 

Right now, to get a hold of a counselor you dial 1-800-273-TALK. But this possible change would shorten it to dialing 9-8-8. 

Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network Regional Director Sarah Walsh says the update could really help young people specifically.

"I think it's phenomenal," she said. "I think a lot of teens struggling with mental health issues will remember that."

According to the CDC, suicide is the leading cause of death for young people 15-19 years old. However Walsh said it is about both access and support.

"I think people should know it's okay to get help," she said. 

Through removing the stigma over conversations about mental health, she's hoping more people seek the help they need.

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