SPECIAL TO THE TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTER
Crisis Services and the National Hopeline Network
By H. Reese Butler and Karen M. Marshall
Did you know that suicide accounts for at least 5,000 deaths each year in the United States among individuals with schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness? There are strong suggestions in the research literature that individuals who are not receiving adequate treatment for their psychiatric illness are at highest risk for suicide. The Treatment Advocacy Center is pleased to highlight an important service in suicide prevention from an amazing group, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center (KBHC), program manager of the National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
Five years ago, a distraught Midwestern woman whose life was piled high with difficulties that seemed too much to bear recorded in her diary a last-ditch attempt to reach out for help. She dialed 1-800-SUICIDE, but the call went through to a telemarketing company that "hordes" telephone numbers. Two days later, she ended her life.
Contrast that with a June 1999 call to 1-800-SUICIDE placed by a 16-year-old girl from Los Angeles. She had taken an overdose of pills and had slit her wrists, and was losing consciousness. Also in a last-ditch attempt to reach out for help, she dialed 1-800-SUICIDE. Her call was answered by the crisis line staff of the Los Angeles-based Suicide Prevention Center, part of Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center. Her call was traced, an ambulance dispatched, and her life was saved.
The National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) is the first major project of The Kristin Brooks Hope Center (KBHC), started by H. Reese Butler shortly after the April 7, 1998, suicide of his 28-year-old wife, Kristin Brooks Rossell. The Hopeline links callers to a certified crisis center nearest the caller's location. Crisis centers networked under this single, toll-free number are certified by the American Association of Suicidology, thus assuring compliance with national standards and quality of services. Butler notes that certification is significant because only about 10 percent of the nation's active crisis centers are certified by independent agencies.
Since October 2002, a partnership of the American Association of Suicidology and the Kristin Brooks Hope Center was awarded a three-year grant administered by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The grant is intended to expand, enhance and improve the quality and accessibility of suicide prevention services provided by crisis centers across the country and to evaluate those services.
Callers to 1-800-SUICIDE reach an AAS-certified suicide crisis center whose staff is highly trained in de-escalating crises and in performing appropriate interventions, particularly if a suicide seems imminent. Crisis centers maintain resource lists for human resources and services in their areas of operation which enables them to refer callers to mental health treatment and other services as appropriate.
Since KBHC launched the National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) three years ago, calls have increased dramatically, from an average of 100 a day to nearly 500 a day. As the number of calls has risen, so has the number of certified crisis centers that have joined the Network - from eight in May 2000 to more than 80 today.
One of KBHC's primary goals under this SAMHSA grant is to expand the National Hopeline Network to 300 certified crisis centers by the fall of 2004.
Before establishment of the National Hopeline Network, ease of access for many seeking mental health crisis services for themselves, family members or loved ones was impeded.
"There are hundreds of community-based crisis centers around the U.S.," notes Karen Marshall. "Each has at least one telephone number to establish and publicize in their area of operation, and the result can be an accessibility nightmare for people in need of help."
With a single, easy to remember, toll-free telephone number, people across the nation can access crisis center services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With a combined annual total of almost 30,000 people - people with schizophrenia, manic-depressive illness and other mental health diseases - dying by suicide, the National Hopeline Network is a real win-win situation for everyone involved.
For more information about the Kristin Brooks Hope Center and its suicide prevention program, the National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433):
visit online at www.hopeline.com
write The Kristin Brooks Hope Center, 201 North 23rd Street, Suite 100, Purcellville, VA 20132.