'They want help': Crisis hotlines inundated with calls after celebrity suicides

Spade and Bourdain’s deaths come at a time when suicide in general is on the rise. Last week, a report from federal health officials found that suicide rates have increased by 30 percent across the United States since 1999.

As the rates have gone up, so have calls to outreach centers. Draper said calls to the national lifeline increase every year, with more than 2 million calls answered last year.

The calls are free and confidential, he said. Callers speak to trained counselors who assess the severity of their problem and then connect them with local referrals.

The lifeline calls 911if a counselor feels a caller’s life is in imminent danger, but that doesn’t happen often.

“People call because they want help,” Draper said.

At the Crisis Text Line, counselors have a similar process, asking those who mention suicide if they have a plan and how soon they intend to act on it, said Dr. Shairi Turner, the group’s chief medical officer.

“Then we try to de-escalate that situation, bring them from that hot moment to a cool moment, and help them to develop a safety plan that would include tapping into resources, a family or friend network, who can help you,” Turner said.

In the rare event that crisis counselors aren’t able to help, they call the police.

“We have interrupted suicides in progress by doing that,” Turner said.


Calls to crisis lines are not always from the people in distress. Sometimes it’s their loved ones.

That was the case on Sunday for Long Island Crisis Center hotline volunteer Angie Kitchell. She said there seemed to be a greater awareness after Spade and Bourdain’s deaths of the need for people to check in on each other.

“They did mention the specific celebrities,” Kitchell said of the calls she fielded. “Since these two famous suicides, a lot of people don’t know how to handle this, so it’s great that they pick up the phone and they call the hotlines and they find out what the right thing is to say.”


The centers recommend knowing signs of depression and suicidal thinking and then calling the suicide lifeline for local resources.

At the Bozeman Help Center, Lundgren was reminded last week of other high-profile suicides, including Robin Williams in 2014 and Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington last year. If the previous patterns hold, call volumes will likely stay high for a while after last week’s losses.

“It’s very painful to lose a person, even a high-profile person,” she said, adding that reaching out for support is the most important step. “Thoughts of suicide are painful and overwhelming and scary, both for the person who has them and for their friends and family as well.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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