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Mental Illness, Suicide Prevention Get Funding Boost in New Hampshire

In August 2017, emergency boarding for those having a mental-health crisis in New Hampshire reached a record high, when 72 individuals were waiting for treatment and beds. (Pexels/Pixabay)
In August 2017, emergency boarding for those having a mental-health crisis in New Hampshire reached a record high, when 72 individuals were waiting for treatment and beds. (Pexels/Pixabay)
December 10, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire's suicide-prevention programs report more people are coming forward to share stories about measures that helped save their lives.

One such group is Headrest, a suicide-prevention hotline that began in 1971. Executive director Cameron Ford said the 24-hour crisis hotline serves New Hampshire, Vermont and parts of Maine.

He said he finds most data about the nationwide increase in suicide deaths very discouraging, but said personal testimonials from those who have received help shows suicide-prevention programs do work.

"So much about suicide is an impulsive behavior,” Ford said. “People who are survivors of attempted suicide, 100% of them say once they pulled the trigger or once whatever they did, they immediately regretted it."

In August, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill aimed at combatting suicide in the state, including expanding prevention education in schools. The legislation approved more funding for the suicide-prevention hotline and other strategies to address suicide as a public-health issue.

A 2018 Centers for Disease Control report showed suicide rates rose nearly 50% in New Hampshire over a 17-year period.

Ford said stories are more than anecdotal, including one from a man who was once making 150 hotline calls per month to keep suicide thoughts at bay. Four years later, he had conquered his mental-health issues and had a permanent home and a job. Ford said the hotline is operated 24 hours per day, 365 days a year by professionals who offer a variety of services.

"We get about 1,000 calls a month altogether, and about 250 of those calls are calls regarding someone who wants to quit using substances,” he said. “So we help them get that help.”

NAMI New Hampshire adopted a "Zero Suicide" goal after a government report showed suicide rates increased in nearly all states from 1999 to 2016. Spokesperson Patrick Roberts said the 2018 annual report highlights successes and what needs more attention.

"We are a fairly rural state. So that's one of the biggest challenges in the state is just how do you get the resources where the vast majority of them are potentially a few hours away,” Roberts said. “And that seems to be a common issue in other states that are either large and rural or just a little more spread out."

The Headrest hotline number is 603-448-4400, and the national suicide-prevention lifeline is 800-273-TALK.

Disclosure: AARP New Hampshire contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NH