Local News

On the brink: Suicide attempts up; help available

Posted December 16, 2008 10:01 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2008 1:01 p.m. EST

— 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.