Through its national network of 150 crisis centers, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK/8255), provided help and hope to its 3 millionth caller this week. Since its inception in 2005, the Lifeline has seen a steady increase in calls and now answers more than 2,200 calls per day. The Lifeline, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), uses advanced technology that links callers to a trained counselor closest to their location to provide confidential crisis support 24/7.
“Every day, in hundreds of communities across this country, the Lifeline and its network of crisis centers saves lives — sometimes quietly, sometimes dramatically,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “But every day they prove what we know to be true: suicide is preventable and help is always available by calling 1-800-273-TALK/8255.”
Federally-funded evaluation studies have demonstrated that persons who feel suicidal actually call hotlines, and that doing so helps significantly reduce their emotional distress and helps them stay alive.
About one in five callers to the Lifeline “press 1” to be connected to the Veterans Crisis Line, a specialized call center run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for veterans, service members, and concerned family members. Since its launch in 2007, this successful partnership between the Lifeline, SAMHSA and the Department of Veterans Affairs has enabled VA professionals to answer more than 450,000 calls and conduct more than 16,000 life-saving rescues.
“It is our duty and honor to provide this service to our nation’s veterans, service members, and their families, providing support and helping them through crises,” said Jan Kemp, Ph.D., R.N., National Mental Health Program Director Suicide Prevention.
In addition to providing 24/7 crisis support, the Lifeline has become an invaluable resource during the current economic climate. About 30 percent of callers contact Lifeline because of serious financial circumstances. “The crisis centers in Lifeline’s network provide a safety net for those with nowhere else to turn in communities, especially where budget cuts have reduced other services,” said John Draper, Ph.D., the Lifeline’s Project Director. Trained counselors at 150 crisis centers across the nation provide emotional support and connect people to essential services, such as food stamps, shelters and substance abuse treatment.
The Lifeline continues to develop new, innovative methods for reaching out to more people, especially online. Partnerships with Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace have created new standards on how to report and address suicide-related postings. An increasing number of crisis centers also offer services via online chat and text messaging.
According to the latest numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 8.4 million adults have suicidal thoughts and 1.1 million attempt suicide every year. Although most of those individuals do not complete suicide, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that more than 36,000 people died by suicide in 2008.
SAMHSA’s support for the Lifeline is a key part of the agency’s strategic initiative to promote emotional health, as well as prevent and reduce mental illness, substance abuse, and related problems, such as suicide. Additional information about SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Veterans Crisis Line, and Veterans Chat can be accessed at: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. More information about other SAMHSA suicide prevention programs can be obtained by visiting SAMHSA’s Web site, http://www.samhsa.gov.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.
Media Contact: SAMHSA Press Office