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After Celebrity Deaths, the Suicide Hotline Prevention Has Seen a Spike in Calls

The silver lining to a series of tragedies.

After the tragic deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, suicide prevention hotlines have started to see a significant increase in calls and text messages.

In an interview with USA Today, Dan Reidenberg, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), said because of the media coverage and the high profile deaths crisis hotlines have climbed from about 20% to 30%.  Even Crisis Text Line, an organization that provides crisis counselors for free by texting 741741, saw their hotline increase by 115% in volume.

John Draper, the Director for National Suicide Prevention, told the Wall Street Journal when a celebrity dies of suicide it is not uncommon for the numbers to spike because people feel so connected with celebrities, they often feel a “collection sense of loss.”

The connection felt with celebrities has cause media researchers to believe that when a well-known celebrity dies it causes a “celebrity suicide effect”, which is a bunch of copycat suicides after a celebrity has taken their life. Back in 2014, actor/comedian Robin Williams took his own life and four months after his death caused a 10% increase in suicides. “Celebrity suicides can trigger suicidal thoughts in people who might already be vulnerable, and publicizing the phone number to call for support increases odds that people will call,” Draper said.

Many people on Twitter after hearing the news of Spade and Bourdon’s death posted the National Suicide Prevention number, which is 1-800-273-8255,  in their Twitter post encouraging people to seek help and lead to their calls being increased by 25% during that week. “We need to have people understand that just because there was a high profile death by suicide it doesn’t mean it has to be your outcome,” said Reidenberg to USA Today.

According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Because of this suicide prevention programs and lawmakers are asking for more funding, especially after the deaths of Spade and Bourdain. Lawmakers Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen and Nita Lowey, a chairman and member of the House Appropriations Committee, wrote a letter to Congress saying, “Congress cannot afford to continue to undercut investments in critical programs that help prevent suicide. We need to be doing more to combat suicide, not less.”

Even though the crisis centers are underfunded and the calls are seemingly increasing. “Everyone will get service. People are going to get help. It may just take a little bit longer.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for National Suicide Prevention Line. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. If you are outside the U.S, please visit the Internation Association for Suicide Prevention.


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