Dinah, ClinkShrink, & Roy produce Shrink Rap: a blog by Psychiatrists for Psychiatrists, interested bystanders are also welcome. A place to talk; no one has to listen.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Have You Ever Called The National Suicide Prevention Hotline?
After Robin Williams died, my Facebook feed was full of ads for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. There's a reason for this: when celebrities commit suicide there may be an increase in suicide, copycat acts if you will. Publicizing means for help does help -- after Kurt Cobain's death, calls to such centers went up and suicide deaths went down.
I'd like to write about what happens when people call suicide prevention hotlines. If you have, will you tell me your story? Or if you work for one, I'd love to hear about your experience. To write, I may need to be able to contact you (I don't need to publish your name), so perhaps an email rather then a comment? Shrinkrapblog at gmail dot com.
Be safe and thank you!
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I have never called a Suicide Hotline, but I volunteered for a hotline in Berkeley, CA in 1985-1986. Most of our callers called multiple times a day, every single day. We kept computer notes on each call, and everyone on every shift knew the regular callers. Most of those callers never mentioned suicide, but were out of touch with reality, and had confused thought processes, so had a hard time creating logical sentences or saying reality-based things.
We were given a list of low-income medical services and psychiatrists willing to see suicidal patients, and it was our job to offer services callers could access, then talk to them. We were instructed to ask.. have you ever felt like this before? Do you have a friend or family member you could turn to now for support? When you feel down like this, what things have you done in the past to take your mind off feeling this way, and what of these could you do right now to make yourself feel better? I am sure there was more, but I have forgotten, since it has been so long.
I remember that in over a year, I only once talked to a man who was not confused, and was seriously considering suicide. He sounded totally rational. I talked to him for a very long time, and let him talk and talk for several hours as I recall. It was a night shift, so this was the middle of the night, and there were no paid staff members on site to handle the call. I have no idea if I said the right things to him or if just my sympathy might have helped, and I have wondered ever since if he made it past that moment of despair.
No, I haven't, and I don't think I ever would--just because it seems so impersonal. And if they're really worried, what are they supposed to do.
I feel sort of the same way about depression screening days on college campuses. What good does it do to find out that your depressed if, when you call the campus health center, you find out that it's 3 months to get an appointment with a mental health professional. (Same thing with mobile mammogram screenings --vans, I think-- what good is it to know that you've got cancer if you have no insurance or means to pay for treatment. (They're actually quite useful for women prisoners.)
You wondered if talking to the man who was suicidal made a difference. I know it did make a difference to him. I never called a suicide hotline, but I can tell you what made a difference for me in times of deep despair was having someone reach out to me, someone who gave a damn. So, kudos to you for being that light for him. Don't ever wonder if you made a difference - know that you did.
I called our crisis hotline once when I experienced intrusive thoughts to hurt myself. I had taken an OD of Sudafed. I called the crisis hotline after I took the OD. They must have misunderstood me, because the caller laughed at me. I hung up.
I don't think I would reach out to them again
I called once. It was a different experience than I expected. Very nonjudgemental. We...chatted...about nearly everything other than the gun in my lap. For probably two hours. Must have worked. I'm still here. :)
I called the national suicide prevention hotline today. I spoke to a woman who kept saying things like, "that's too bad" and "oh,that's horrible!" She made me feel even worse.
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