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August 5th, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Hey Congress, Pull Your Head Out

congressOK, 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.

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53 Responses to “Hey Congress, Pull Your Head Out”

  1. Nan says:

    Excellent idea Lynda! I also would love to see more discussion about PTSD. This condition is rampant in our returning soldiers and is contributing to the highest suicide rate our military has seen. The public needs to be educated about this debilitating condition.


  2. donna says:

    michelle/ august 11,2009 You have a lot “on your plate” right now, may I encourage you to turn to your local church to help you? No one likes to ask for help but it`s there for the asking and you`ll be amazed at the possible new opportunities that may be available. I particularly like Catholic Charities (I`m not catholic either) because the`re involved in all aspects of life. They can help with food, clothing ,utilities, job assistance, finnancial planning (I know that`s a joke from personal experience) to child care and more. Please reach out, there ARE people willing to help. As far as mental health is concerned, we have our thoughts, but I have benefited greatly from crisis centers and know a few people with high education, high professional fields that had to reach out. Crisis centers keep confidential where a physican has to make reports, so a position in a community , coworkers, family, friends don`t have to know.The sigma has caused many of us to lose our careers because we had to reach out for help and it ended up digitally and on paper. I hope congress can change that too. ask for help!

  3. Susani Sacca says:

    I know your busy with all your shows and stuff but are any of the posts helping you formualte anything DR PHIL?

    Pls respond.

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