Hey Congress, Pull Your Head Out
OK, as you probably know, I’m not big on wading into political issues on the show for several reasons. Mainly because I don’t think that’s what you tune in for and also because I probably don’t know enough about most issues to discuss them intelligently. I know, I know. Neither do most of the talking heads that do discuss them, but at least I admit it. But I saw a report yesterday that is sort of a political issue, and I just have to comment! Apparently, the federal government is allocating $1 million to be spread out over dozens of suicide crisis call centers around the country that are overwhelmed by record increases in distress calls. A MILLION DOLLARS??? Are you kidding me? Who is thinking for you people up there?
Over the last year and a half, in nearly every interview I’ve done with the media, I have pointed out that an inordinate amount of people in this country are emotionally falling apart because of the the economic recession. In July alone, according to the report I read, the nationwide National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of 140 local call centers answered 57,000 calls — a whopping 46 percent increase over January 2008. Money pressure translates into life pressure, marriage pressure and personal pressure. Problems across the board react badly to stress, and we have plenty of it these days.
And countless experts say we haven’t yet seen the full impact of the recession on suicide rates. The numbers, they claim, are almost certain to keep rising as unemployment, home foreclosure and personal debt continue to climb. Other experts insist the numbers are destined to rise because of the lack of mental health services available for the men and women in uniform — the ones who have served so honorably — who are now returning home from war.
The increase of calls has left many suicide centers short-staffed and unable to handle the workload. The centers’ employees don’t have time to make follow-up phone calls or arrange visits to those who desperately need their attention. It’s a nightmare scenario.
Let me tell you something about suicide hotlines: Considering the lack of mental health clinics in this country, these hotlines are vital. If you’re wondering why we need them, just read this story.
The fact is that these call centers are often the only places — the only places — where a lot of people can go to start talking about their inability to cope. At these centers, callers don’t have to give their names. They don’t have to provide specific details about their predicaments. They just get to talk. If you’ve been through some emotional turmoil yourself, then you know there is nothing more important than finding a safe place where you can talk, and where you know someone is listening to you. For so many callers who are withdrawn in shame, that alone can be enough to get them moving again.
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that more than 33,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year. I don’t want that number to go any higher. A million bucks is a joke given the need. And we need to make sure our congresspersons know that. They need to know that as they waste billions on ridiculous government projects and “buddy back-scratching,” this nickel and dime allocation for suicide prevention is an insult to people in need and to those laboring so hard, typically with little or no pay.
Whatever it takes to keep our suicide crisis call centers funded, then let’s do it. And by the way, if you have some free time, there’s no doubt a suicide crisis center near you could use some volunteers — someone to answer the phone for an hour or two. Our congresspersons might not understand what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help ourselves and each other. You could very well end up saving a life.