The Suicide Crisis
On the show and on this blog, I’ve talked a lot about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline that provides access to trained counselors for those going through the hardest of times. Last year, the Dr. Phil show worked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to intensify suicide prevention efforts during the economic crisis, as more and more people are grappling with job loss, foreclosures and debt.
I’m so proud to announce that all of our efforts are paying off. This week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a report saying that more people are becoming aware of the Lifeline and its 147 call centers. The year-over-year increase in suicide prevention hotline calls rose by almost 15 percent between 2008 and 2009. The report directly attributes the increase in calls to the Dr. Phil show and to Internet providers who are promoting the Lifeline. For instance, Google now posts the Lifeline’s toll-free phone number at the top of the page when users type in “suicide” or “kill myself.” Also, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube are now providing information about the national hotline.
One of the reasons we do this show is to open up a dialogue about difficult issues and to provide resources for viewers who may be struggling with self-destructive thoughts or behaviors. “This combination of education, awareness and providing a way to get help, we believe, made a huge difference in the lives of many people,” says Dr. John Draper, CEO of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “I want to thank Dr. Phil for handling the subject of suicide so sensitively in a way that people can understand.”
Here’s about as distressing a statistic as I’ve read in a long, long time: suicides now account for 34,598 deaths per year in the U.S. That’s almost twice the number of homicides.
Let that number sink in for a minute. Every year, more than 34,000 of our fellow citizens — men, women and youth — reach a point where they decide life is no longer worth living. It’s simply flabbergasting and so, so devastating to realize what a crisis this has become.
This is only a beginning, of course. Studies by SAMHSA found that 8.3 million American adults seriously contemplated suicide in the past year, with 1.1 million adults actually attempting it. “Relatively few people realize how pervasive suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts are in our society,” says SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Fortunately, the Lifeline has made a remarkable difference in saving the lives of countless Americans.”
Here’s the number of the hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Keep it with you. Pass it out to anyone you believe might be thinking about doing something disastrous. This is a fight we cannot lose.