SEVERE WX : Severe Thunderstorm Warning View Alerts

Calls to suicide prevention hotline spiked after celebrity deaths, but what's the next step?

After the deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, calls and texts to crisis hotlines spiked dramaticall...

Posted: Jun 14, 2018 2:37 PM
Updated: Jun 14, 2018 2:37 PM

After the deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, calls and texts to crisis hotlines spiked dramatically.

Trained counselors at more than 150 crisis centers in the United States fielded 65% more phone calls over the previous week for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the organization's director of communications, Frances Gonzalez, said. And the Crisis Text Line saw a 116% increase in volume, according to Liz Eddy, the text line's spokeswoman.

Calls to suicide hotline went up 65%, texts grew 116% after recent high-profile suicides

After the spotlight shifts from suicide, experts want people to think about more than hotlines

Surges in activity like this are not unusual after famous people take their lives and hotlines get promoted, explained Eddy. She said they saw similar increases after actor and comedian Robin Williams ended his life in 2014 and after Chester Bennington, the former lead singer of Linkin Park and Stone Temple Pilots, died by suicide in 2017.

If more people in crisis are inclined to reach out for help when suicide enters the national spotlight, what happens when suicide recedes from trending-topic status? When we collectively move on to other news stories and different breakroom banter, who are we failing? If our attention spans were longer, what more could be done?

Prevention means 'more than talking somebody out of taking their life'

According to experts, services like the lifeline are just one piece in a bigger and more complicated puzzle.

"Hotlines and crisis intervention are essential, but too many people never share their risk -- let alone ask for help," said Tony Salvatore, director of suicide prevention at Montgomery County Emergency Service, a nonprofit mental health crisis service in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Put another way, he added, "suicide prevention is more than talking somebody out of taking their life."

We should think about suicide prevention much like we think about prevention of heart disease, suggested Dr. Christine Moutier, a psychiatrist who serves at the chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Just as we don't combat heart disease by only focusing on people who are on the verge of a massive heart attack, neither should we put off caring about suicide until people are on the brink of ending their lives.

Education and advocacy can be equally important, and that's why several hundred people -- many of them suicide loss survivors -- head to Washington each June and, on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, meet with members of Congress and their staffers.

They, and Moutier, take the longer view -- calling for changes that outlast short-lived moments of heightened national attention.

"In our line of work, in our world, this kind of moment happens on a smaller scale all the time," said Moutier. "When a community is hit with suicides, there's a readiness to take action in game-changing new ways."

She pointed to her own history at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, where she was first a resident and later a professor of psychiatry and assistant dean. In the span of 15 years, 13 physicians -- most of them on faculty at the academic medical center -- took their lives, she said.

Through a depression awareness and suicide prevention program she helped lead, the community experienced a shift toward being there for and helping one another, she said.

"The entire culture changed," Moutier explained, and UCSD went from having "too many physician suicides to almost none."

The need to invest in education and research

A more comprehensive approach to combating suicide would include investing in suicide prevention education, improving health care coordination to use evidence-based strategies to save lives, and increasing federal investment in research and programs, said Moutier.

Data show that increased investment makes a difference, she said, and pointed to the history of HIV/AIDS as an example.

Between 2003 and 2013, deaths associated with HIV/AIDS fell in the United States by 49%, based on numbers culled from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Vital Statistics Reports. In 2013, HIV/AIDS caused the deaths of 6,955 people and received $2.9 billion in federal funding, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.

Meantime, CDC data for the same 10 year period shows deaths associated with suicide climbed by 31%. Federal funding for suicide research and programs was $37 million in 2013, when 41,149 people took their own lives.

Recent research from the CDC showed that since 1999 the suicide rate in the US grew by more than 25%. In 2016 alone, about 45,000 people died by suicide.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country, according to the CDC. If Moutier had her way, the government would invest $150 million in preventing suicide, a small fraction of funding compared to many other leading causes of death.

The 2017 NIH data shows, for example, suicide got $68 million in federal funding, while heart disease got $1.37 billion, cancer got $5.98 billion and diabetes got $1.1 billion. HIV/AIDS, in 2017, got $3 billion.

It's not that heart disease, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS don't deserve funding and attention, she clarified. That funding has proven to make a difference, she said. But how might the landscape look for suicide in our country if we gave more to this cause of death, too?

Making mental health care a priority -- an insured priority

Giving more means thinking bigger, echoed Dr. Jodi Gold, a psychiatrist and director of Gold Center for Mind Health and Wellness.

Suicide hotlines are essential at the acute stage, assuming a person is willing to pick up the phone, but "it's only the first step," Gold said.

We have to acknowledge we a have problem in this country, she said, and, "we have to put our money where our mouth is and provide thoughtful and comprehensive services for people with depression and suicidal thoughts."

We need to make seeking help easier by making services more accessible. That means shooting for "full parity in health insurance companies" and coverage, she said, thinking more about patient needs than bottom lines, and making mental health care a priority.

So when we talk about surges in calls to hotlines, we're missing the bigger picture, Gold said.

"People who are depressed need medical care," she said. "They may not feel like dialing a number."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20573

Reported Deaths: 878
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin6918534
Ramsey231697
Stearns192312
Nobles14572
Anoka116455
Dakota105935
Olmsted55110
Washington50626
Kandiyohi4541
Clay36623
Rice3652
Scott3462
Wright2401
Sherburne2081
Todd1970
Benton1662
Carver1612
Mower1501
Steele1400
Martin1245
Blue Earth1121
St. Louis11113
Pine850
Freeborn840
Winona7715
Carlton730
Nicollet683
Cottonwood620
Polk582
Otter Tail550
Itasca527
Goodhue522
Watonwan500
Chisago481
Dodge430
Meeker420
Crow Wing421
Le Sueur411
Chippewa400
Jackson390
Morrison380
Murray350
Becker320
Lyon310
Douglas290
McLeod260
Isanti250
Waseca240
Rock210
Unassigned199
Fillmore171
Mille Lacs161
Wabasha160
Swift150
Sibley120
Beltrami120
Wilkin113
Norman110
Kanabec111
Cass113
Faribault110
Brown112
Pipestone100
Marshall80
Pennington70
Pope70
Aitkin60
Wadena60
Yellow Medicine50
Koochiching50
Lincoln50
Mahnomen51
Renville50
Lac qui Parle30
Red Lake30
Big Stone30
Redwood30
Traverse30
Grant20
Houston20
Clearwater20
Hubbard10
Kittson10
Lake10
Roseau10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 17227

Reported Deaths: 456
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3714108
Woodbury255524
Black Hawk167639
Linn92775
Marshall86611
Dallas84914
Johnson5987
Muscatine54339
Wapello5004
Crawford4772
Tama39023
Louisa3347
Scott3319
Dubuque31916
Jasper25616
Buena Vista2310
Pottawattamie2106
Sioux1990
Washington1798
Allamakee1184
Wright1170
Plymouth1080
Warren1060
Story941
Poweshiek888
Bremer676
Henry611
Clinton601
Boone540
Des Moines531
Mahaska526
Cedar451
Guthrie433
Taylor370
Benton371
Jones360
Monroe334
Iowa320
Clarke320
Osceola320
Shelby310
Buchanan310
Clayton303
Marion290
Webster271
Fayette260
Hamilton260
Madison241
Monona230
Cerro Gordo221
Lee220
Winneshiek210
Davis200
Lyon190
Grundy190
Harrison190
Floyd181
Jefferson150
Cherokee150
Butler150
Mills140
Delaware140
Humboldt130
Sac130
Greene130
Keokuk130
Hardin130
Howard120
Hancock120
Appanoose123
Audubon111
Jackson110
Cass110
Ida100
Page100
Clay100
Winnebago100
Carroll90
Van Buren80
Franklin80
Dickinson80
Adair80
Chickasaw80
Kossuth70
Emmet70
Lucas60
Montgomery60
Union60
Adams50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Pocahontas40
Mitchell40
Palo Alto30
Worth30
Unassigned30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur00
Rochester
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Mason City
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 76°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Austin
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 79°
Charles City
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Storms a brewin'
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Will Memorial Day cause a coronavirus spike?

Image

Can you catch Covid-19 from mosquitos?

Image

125 Live Restaurant partnership

Image

Taps in City Park

Image

100 Most traveled days in MN have begun

Image

Parade in the park

Image

Field of Flags

Image

Pausing the pandemic to remember the fallen

Image

Memorial Day Dinner

Image

Salvation Army Dental Care Needs PPE

Community Events