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Crime News

Calls To Suicide Hotlines Skyrocket In Wake Of Spade And Bourdain Deaths

The deaths of beloved celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are possible factors in a recent surge in calls to suicide hotlines.

By Eric Shorey

Following the suicides of beloved celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week, suicide hotlines have seen a dramatic increase in the number of calls.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported a 25% increase in call volume on June 6 and 7 compared to the week prior. The uptick came shortly after news that Spade was found dead on Tuesday. Just a few days later, food writer Bourdain was found dead on Friday. In both cases, officials said that suicide was the likely cause of death.

Frances Gonzalez, director of communication for Lifeline, said that the calls were likely prompted by news organizations sharing the Lifeline's information amidst reports of the high-profile deaths.

"[People are] calling the Lifeline to get help," Gonzalez said to USA Today. "The Lifeline has been proven to de-escalate moments of crisis and help people find hope." 

Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), echoed those statistics, saying that there has been an increase of about 25% to 30% in inquiries to crisis lifelines and text services from people in crisis.

"Everyone will get service. People are going to get help," Reidenberg said. "It may just take a little bit longer."

Rachel Larkin, director of crisis prevention at EveryMind, a nonprofit in Montgomery County, Maryland, said she is glad people in need are reaching out.

“We’re so extremely busy. Every time we put down the phone another call comes in ... That’s what we’re here for," said Larkin to USA Today. “I think we’re all worried and it’s been very, very busy. Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are people a lot of people related to.”

Ellen Lovejoy, a spokeswoman for New Jersey's Department of Health, said that the New Jersey Hopeline received 49 calls between 6 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Friday — a 70% increase from their normal call volume.

"More people are calling out of concern about someone else. They are asking about warning signs and guidance on what to do," Lovejoy said. "Several callers specifically mentioned the news about Anthony Bourdain’s death."

Statistics about the rise of suicide in the country have also recently alarmed health experts: A Center for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that suicide deaths in the United States have increased nearly 30% since 1999, according to USA Today.

Jane Pearson, chair of the Suicide Research Consortium at the National Institute on Mental Health, said that worry amongst people studying the phenomenon is growing.

"We’re concerned about how our crisis resources are responding," Pearson said to USA Today. "We already know we could need more (prevention) resources."

Researchers have also been exploring the extent to which "suicidal contagion," — the phenomeon in which a publicized suicide serves as a trigger for the more suicidal crises from susceptible or suggestible persons — is a factor following celebrity deaths.

"If they're already struggling with thoughts of depression or risk of suicide, they're already trying to get information about how other people are experiencing it," said John Ackerman, suicide prevention coordinator in the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, to CNN. "Especially when you've got high-profile people who are successful and who the world views as having a lot going for them and they die by suicide, it can generate feelings of hopelessness."

If you are in a suicidal crisis, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, 24/7.

[Photo: Anthony Bourdain by Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images, Kate Spade by Evan Agostini / Getty Images]