As suicide rates increase, so do calls for help to Lawrence suicide prevention lifeline

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- September 10th marks World Suicide Prevention Day. In the US, suicide rates are climbing, but so are efforts to help those in need.

"A lot of our callers don’t have anywhere else to turn," said Allan Bunch, director of development for Headquarters, Inc. in Lawrence.

In a small room at Headquarters, many lives are saved.

"People are reaching out for help," Bunch said.

Headquarters Inc. in Lawrence fields calls for its own suicide prevention hotline and every caller from anywhere in the country with a Kansas area code that dials into the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

"It’s a conversation. It’s, 'Are you thinking about suicide?' By using that word, I’m telling you I'm a safe space. I cared enough to ask. I really do want to know, and then it’s listening," Bunch said.

One paid and nearly 50 volunteer counselors man the lifeline phones 24/7. Many calls are from loved ones of a person considering suicide. About a third of callers are thinking of ending their own life.

"As humans we’re sort of pre-programmed to want to fix things, and that’s not helpful to someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide. It is a big deal. What might seem somewhat trivial for us is a really big deal to that individual in that time so just listen and let that person feel validated and heard," Bunch said.

Often just walking through a concern step-by-step can help the caller resolve it.  Other times, the counselors can direct them to social or mental health services, including in-house counseling.

And while it's worrisome that suicide rates are increasing, so are calls for help. Headquarters has seen a 65-percent spike in calls in the past four years.

"Just by talking about it, that is an advancement where we’re making the word a little less scary. But we’re raising awareness to fact suicide prevention is real and there’s something we can do," Bunch said.

Headquarters is hosting an open house for the community Monday from 4:30-7 p.m.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 785-841-2345 to reach local call-takers in Lawrence. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Here are some important warning signs to watch for are changes in talk, behavior and mood. FOX4 also has a list of resources here.