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On the brink: Suicide attempts up; help available

Posted December 16, 2008
Updated December 17, 2008

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— The slumping economy, along with holiday depression, had led to a spike in suicide deaths. In Raleigh, nearly 30 people have taken their own lives this year. Durham is also reporting a rise in suicides.

"Most of them, they feel hopeless,” said Courtney Atwood, executive director of HopeLine of North Carolina, a 24-hour crisis line.

Calls to the HopeLine have more than tripled in recent months, Atwood said. Nearly 700 calls came in during November, and the despair is often over jobs and the economy.

"We are hearing a lot about people having trouble paying their utility bills or paying their mortgage,” Atwood said.

A woman in distress caused traffic to be backed up for more than three hours Monday on Interstate 440 at New Bern Avenue. Raleigh police were eventually able to talk the woman down off the overpass.

Over the weekend, a man who did the same thing did not survive.

The Durham Crisis Response Center says its hotline is also flooded with calls from people who are out of work and overwhelmed by unpaid bills. The center operates the city's only crisis-intervention hotline.

Seven suicide deaths have been reported in Durham since the beginning of November.

“They were seeing more, both completed suicides and calls about suicide this fall than they think they have ever seen,” said Dr. Margery Sved, medical director of Durham Center Medical, a group connecting people with mental health help.

Sved says everyone should be aware of potential suicidal signs:

  • Threatening to hurt/kill oneself; talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having a sense of purpose in life

Reach the HopeLine crisis center at: 919-231-4525; for information about HopeLine services or to volunteer, call 919-832-3326.

To reach the Durham Crisis Response Center, call 919-560-7100 or 800-510-9132.

For Johnston County's crisis line, call 919-934-6161.

There is also a national suicide prevention helpline, 800-273-TALK.

11 Comments

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  • seaturtles246 Dec 17, 2008

    It is very sad that this happens. My brother-in-laws brother commited suicide two days before Thanksgiving this year. He was 72 years old. That was one of the biggest shocks of my life! He was such a good man, and one person that I would never, ever think could do this. The bad thing is that no one really knows why. The only note said - no services, cremation, and scatter ashes in the New River. I wish that he was able to get help before doing something so drastic.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Dec 17, 2008

    This is so sad. And to say suicide should be acceptable is a sad thing to say. It is obvious people are not in the right state of mind to contemplate doing something so final as suicide, so to say "just let them" is so sad.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 17, 2008

    They need mental help from a good hospital.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 17, 2008

    happymom, I vehemently disagree with your premise that "Everyone is valuable." Not true. 6.2 BILLION "miracles" is enough. While you are believing that praying to a deity helps anything, many people don't contribute to society (short of paying their cable TV bill) and no longer desire to remain in the gene pool. Suicide should be easy to do and an acceptable behavior. We marry, breed & divorce who we want, so how is this any different? Or, should we also aggressively seek out & foricibly counsel (and commit?) those who end their life early by smoking, not exercising and eating meat?

  • ohmygosh Dec 17, 2008

    happymom,

    Agree with everything you said but "most just need conseling". Indeed they will insist on pills as well if you've attempted suicide. It's the "solution" that will get you out of the mental ward the fastest. This pill solution often triggers other unwanted side effects-- like suicide ideation.

    Also to sum up NC mental health situation. You have a problem and are told to "get help". You try and there is a 3-6 month waiting list, if you can find it at all. Too often it doesn't help but you are told the solution is to "get help".

    The dem's have destroyed mental health care in NC.

  • happymom Dec 17, 2008

    Who are we to intervene and force them into an institution on lifelong meds?
    hereandnow99"

    Who said that anyone attempting suicide would need "lifelong institutionalization and lifelong meds?" Most folks just need counseling and support to get through whatever difficulty they are dealing with.

    The "big deal" is that: (1) Everyone is valuable. (2) People who commit suicide very often leave behind family and friends that have to deal with the emotional aftermath (including intensive guilt and anger) that follows suicide. (3) The problems that drive people to attempt suicide can be worked through with the right support.

    If you lost someone you loved in such a preventable and tragic way, I'm sure you wouldn't be as flippant as your post came off.

    The victims and their families are in my prayers.

  • cubed32696 Dec 17, 2008

    Hereandnow99 and dhamma

    Wow I guess you've never had a bad moment in your life. You've obviously have had to never deal with someone who has. You also have not had to deal a child holding a gun to his head becasue he feels that there is no other way. Fortunately I was able to convince him that there was and got him help.

    If you have no experience with suicide you have no idea what you are talking about. This is a very painful issue for some of us. As a parent, I will always have this fear.

  • Seeminglyopposed Dec 17, 2008

    Hereandnow99 and dhamma -I just hope and pray that you two are not parents, or actually since you are born, you have to be human, so to wish you could not be so inhuman would only be a wish, to be so flippant about such a deterimental thing. Most people in this state of mind, are only going through a phase and get over it, and continue to be good parents, wives, husbands, childrens, etc. But not with the lack of value of life that you two have put in your comments. So sad.....call the help line, you are borderline.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 17, 2008

    With the 6.2 Billion humans and the global population doubling every 40 years, what's the big deal about the few people who want out of the rat race? Isn't deciding what to do with our own bodies about as personal of a choice as it gets? Who are we to intervene and force them into an institution on lifelong meds?

  • Hasbeen Dec 17, 2008

    dhamma - yes, an explanation of a traffic back up is just critical information, especially after it is cleared up and no longer a problem....Are you kidding me!!?? This article is about suicide not traffic. Man, people are just sooo compassionate these days.

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