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Three suicide prevention strategies show real promise. How can they reach more people?
Can a three-digit phone number avert suicides on a grand scale? Last week, the Federal Communications Commission recommended designating 988 as a nationwide suicide prevention hotline number. Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached around the clock through the more cumbersome 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Paths - Life - Someone - Brink - Suicide
Many paths in life can bring someone to the brink of suicide, and a shorter phone number might seem to be a naïvely simple solution. But researchers have repeatedly found that simple works: Callers routinely credit the existing hotline, which is on track to take 2.5 million calls this year, with keeping them safe. "It's one of the most basic human realities," says Lifeline Director John Draper, a counseling psychologist with Vibrant Emotional Health, the New York City nonprofit that administers the hotline. "Helping people feel understood and cared about saves lives."
More than 47,000 people died by suicide in the United States in 2017. Although the global suicide rate has dropped, in the United States it has increased 33% since 1999. Beating back that number is challenging. Although suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, it's still rare enough that designing large studies to probe interventions is difficult—and the high stakes bring ethical worries. "For a long time, the field was just kind of demoralized," says Jane Pearson, a clinical psychologist and researcher who helps strategize suicide prevention research for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland.
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Pearson - Others - Glimmers - Optimism - NIMH
But Pearson and others see glimmers of optimism. NIMH spent $51 million on suicide prevention research in 2018, twice as much as in 2015 though still well below research funding for other conditions that cause similar...
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