Calls to our statewide crisis lines from distraught Oregonians just keep on coming – and in record numbers as a result of the economic downturn that has hit our state especially hard.
The other night, one of our volunteers at Oregon Partnership received a phone call from a police officer downstate, thanking us for alerting them about a man who was about to kill himself. With our help, the man was located and taken to the hospital.
Another caller to our crisis lines who had recently lost his job, his health insurance, his home – and estranged from his family – called in a suicidal state. One of our 80 volunteers who take calls on the crisis lines convinced him to take no action while we researched financial aid and assistance for him. Several days later, he too called to thank us.
Such examples of success stories happen on practically a daily basis here at Oregon Partnership, a statewide non-profit organization. For the past 16 years, we have run the state’s 24-7 crisis lines with a handful of staff members trained in crisis counseling and suicide intervention. These professionals are joined by an incredibly dedicated group of volunteers who have undergone 50 hours of training.
We operate Oregon’s only nationally-certified suicide prevention line, the statewide alcohol and drug HelpLine, a YouthLine, and a Spanish language crisis line, Linea de Ayuda.
Since January of 2008, call volume on the statewide crisis and suicide prevention lines has risen by 71%. Just this past Tuesday, we logged 95 calls, a new daily record.
In May alone, we responded to 1,609 suicide calls. That’s also a record that we never thought we’d see.
There is no question that the economic crisis and the state’s high unemployment rate are largely to blame. Last fall when the economy started stumbling, we witnessed a dramatic influx of calls.
But we are also receiving substantially more calls from veterans and returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these men and women would rather seek help from folks who are not part of the military or Veterans Administration, fearing that it would become a part of their military record. So they call us.
While those seeking help find out numbers in a variety of ways, our budget has never included extensive advertising. We have an ad in the Yellow Pages and of course, you can find our number online.
But as the need for the crisis lines has grown, our funding has decreased. We are receiving fewer dollars from the state, private donors and foundations.
We are asking for $650,000 from the state for the next biennium. The funding would go toward professional staff, extensive training of volunteers, phone banks, and equipment. Compared to other 24-7 crisis lines around the country, this is just a portion of their operating budgets.
We run a highly efficient and economical operation. And now more than ever, we are needed. Unfortunately, more Oregonians than ever are in crisis and need somewhere to turn.
We know from experience that if our callers had no other option than the crisis lines, the results would be of tragic proportions – more deaths and ruined lives, more visits to emergency rooms, more crime, and more expense to Oregon tax payers.
LifeLine: 1-800-SUICIDE and 1-800-273-TALK
Linea de Ayuda: 1-877-515-7848
Crisis Lines Director