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As Suicide Rates Rise, Arkansas to Open Prevention Hotline

By this fall, a new suicide prevention hotline will be based in Arkansas so callers can be referred to local resources. (flairimages/iStockphoto)
By this fall, a new suicide prevention hotline will be based in Arkansas so callers can be referred to local resources. (flairimages/iStockphoto)
April 10, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After a jump in the number of suicides in recent years, state lawmakers have approved a bill (HB 1775) to create and fund an Arkansas Suicide Prevention Hotline.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 577 suicides in Arkansas in 2015, moving it from 16th to 10th place in suicides per capita by state.

Wendy Thompson, Arkansas and Oklahoma area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says it's critical for callers to reach a hotline that has staff and resources in Arkansas.

"This is vital to Arkansans, to have a 24-hour hotline that they can call and be connected with somebody in the state who can provide the resources,” she stresses. “If their call is routed to New York or Boston, they may not know exactly what we have."

Thompson says the national hotline has been the only option for Arkansans looking for assistance. She says callers often found that national operators were effective in providing counseling, but couldn't always refer them to local resources.

State officials say the Arkansas hotline will be in operation by this fall.

The Arkansas Department of Health Suicide Prevention Program will operate the new hotline. In passing House Bill 1775, the legislature approved funding for the first two years. After that, the hotline becomes eligible for federal grants.

Thompson says future calls from Arkansas to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be routed back to the Arkansas call center.

"We know that calling that number when somebody is in crisis can help,” she states. “It's very complicated and there are a lot of different reasons for that jump, but we feel that having a hotline is really important to turning those numbers around."

Arkansas and Montana have been the only two states without their own hotlines for suicide prevention. The CDC found that in 2015, Arkansas had a suicide rate of just over 19 people per 100,000 – well above the national rate of almost 14.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR