On September 5th, 1996, a childhood friend of mine put the barrel of a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. Later on his father found his son in a heap on the floor and his child’s head splattered across the walls.
I bring this up because most of us have lost someone close to suicide. It leaves no shortage of questions and now, there is another, bigger question: Why is the U.S. government making moves to shutdown the 1-800-SUICIDE hotline, which has provided an invaluable service to over 2 million callers?
From May 1998 to October 2001 and from January 2005 until now the hotline has survived on donated proceeds from the Take Action Tour and the support of organizations like the National Mental Health Association. Why? Because the Federal government is not giving this non-profit the $300,000 of already appropriated and earmarked funds that are still owed. As one can see by reading the termination notice sent to the non-profit, the hotline’s total amount owed is far less than the amount owed to the non-profit by the government. According to 1-800-SUICIDE’s website, SAMHSA:
… quietly filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on December 13th, 2006 to pull the private lines held by KBHC/1-800-SUICIDE.
This underhanded grab at these lines is taking place after two years of private communication and months of public debate ending with a commitment from SAMHSA to review and pay 1-800 SUICIDE’s claim on August 25th, 2006.
So what? What’s the big deal?
There are some valid concerns about the goverment taking control of this hotline.
- The U.S. government is statutorily prohibited from funding social service programs outside its borders. This would mean the hotline would go dead in Canada, and plans to expand the hotline into Mexico would end.
- Privacy. There are concerns that the goverment, and you know how they like to categorize people, will create a blacklist of callers. This could potentially keep a person, who went through a very bad time in their life, who got help and moved on, from bettering themselves by getting jobs police officers, air traffic controllers and so forth.
Granted, the Kristin Brooks Hope Center (KBHC) handed over 1-800-SUICIDE to the Feds, but only after they were told that privacy issues would be worked out. The issue remains: When the operators of 1-800-SUICIDE were already working with the government, except in turning over private data, what is the real motivation for this attemptive takeover by the government?
How can you help?
I’m glad you asked! You can help by writing letters to the FCC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Acting Director of SAMHSA. You should also check out the web site for 1-800-SUICIDE. You can start by reading their history/FAQ. If you feel so inclined, donating money will be the most effective way to make an immediate positive impact.