‘You’re not alone’: Suicide prevention during a pandemic

Coronavirus

Help is only a phone call away

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The stress and anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic can sometimes be too much, but there are people out there who want to help if you’re having a hard time coping.

If you’re dealing with thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. Portland Police announced a few weeks ago that suicide-related calls had increased by 23% in the weeks after the stay-home order was given. But taking your own life is not the answer — there are resources available to help.

“What we’re finding on the crisis line is people are struggling. They’re feeling a lot of anxiety. They’re depressed,” said Deborah Zwetchkenbaum, Assistant Director Crisis Line Program for Lines for Life. “The truth of the matter is pretty much everyone is going through that to some extent right now, we really are in this together.”

Deborah Zwetchkenbaum, Assistant Director Crisis Line Program Lines for Life. April 13, 2020 (KOIN)

She said the organization has seen around an 8 – 9% increase in calls in the last month.

“Having intense thoughts of suicide is a very scary place to be and you need to regain that sense of safety and connection,” said Zwetchkenbaum.

Lines for Life is open to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it’s not only a suicide prevention hotline. The people on the other end of the phone lines are trained to help those struggling with drugs and alcohol, seniors who feel lonely, and teenagers dealing with emotional crises.

“There are caring, compassionate, capable people answering those phones who want to be there for you,” said Zwetchkenbaum. “A lot of times when someone gets to that point, the things they’ve been trying to do to cope aren’t working and that’s when we get so discouraged and we start thinking negatively about ourselves. It’s important to realize that help is out there and that there are people who really care and can just give you a soft place to land when you’re going through that intense pain.”

She said, as we are socially isolated and dealing with the personal trials brought on by COVID-19, one of the most important things to remember is there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

“We really want to break through that stigma,” said Zwetchkenbaum. “It’s okay, everybody is going through this in a different way.”

She wanted to remind anyone reading this story who may be struggling with depression or addiction: your life matters. Things can, and will, get better. Help is only a phone call away.

“Please, if you are feeling that way, just pick up the phone and call us,” said Zwetchkenbaum. “You don’t have to go through this alone.”

If you are in need of someone to talk to, here are a few resources:

Lines for Life: 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center

(open 24/7): 503.988.4888

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