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Oklahoma Suicide Prevention Lines Receive More Calls Following Spade, Bourdain Deaths

Anthony Bourdain attends the Turner Network 2016 Upfronts at Nick & Stef's Steakhouse
Evan Agostini
Anthony Bourdain attends the Turner Network 2016 Upfronts at Nick & Stef's Steakhouse

Both centers in Oklahoma that receive calls from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are seeing an increase in calls following last week’s deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

At HeartLine in Oklahoma City, crisis intervention director Megan Rollins says the number of calls more than doubled last week, as compared to the same week the year before. Last week, the center received 351 calls. During the same week in 2017, 168 calls came in.

She says a high-profile death by suicide can be a trigger. Also, media reports that contain the hotline number can prompt people to call.

“We’ve had a lot of crisis calls where the caller has specifically mentioned Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, so we know that that is having a direct impact on people who are calling,” Robbins said.

Anytime there are news reports of a celebrity death by suicide, Robbins says HeartLine prepares to take more calls.

“We adjust staffing, if possible. Our schedule is usually done about a week or so ahead of time,” Rollins said. “But this is a point we may be able to call in some of our volunteers or some of our PRN (as situation requires) support center staff, as well as work with our call center staff to adjust the schedule so we’re able to have additional people answering the phones.”

In Tulsa, Family & Children Services reported a 60 percent increase in calls over the previous week.

At Family & Children’s Services in Tulsa, mental health professionals answered about 60 percent more calls last week as compared to the week before.

Amanda Bradley is the senior program director for COPES, their telephone and mobile service that responds to people experiencing emergencies, including suicidal thoughts. She says the increased call volume has continued into this week.

“We’ve had a lot of family members or friends calling in saying, you know, I’ve seen some signs of maybe depression or anxiety or these things or these overwhelming circumstances in someone I care about’s life. How do I start the conversation? What do I say to them?” Bradley said.

Rollins says increased caller volume has continued into this week at HeartLine as well.

Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK are filtered to local call centers based on location and area code.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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