Lebanon News

NGO offers Lebanon its first national suicide help line

BEIRUT: A local mental health NGO has established a national suicide prevention hotline – the first of its kind in Lebanon – a statement from the organization announced Wednesday. Embrace, an organization that, among other things, is dedicated to providing mental health care to people with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, launched the hotline Tuesday.

Dubbed “Embrace Lifeline,” the specialist phone service will offer emotional support to callers and referrals to suitable treatment centers.

Callers will be able to reach the hotline starting early October.

Highly trained phone operators will be tasked with issuing an evaluation of the callers’ likelihood of attempting suicide.

International experts have conducted the training for these operators, offering a well-rounded course of instruction on points such as active listening skills, suicide risk assessment, crisis management and intervention, Embrace’s statement said.

“The line will be confidential and the identity of the caller will not be revealed, even to their parents,” a member of Embrace who declined to be identified told The Daily Star.

The NGO does not expect to face opposition from parents of minors who call for help.

“A lot of people just need someone to talk to, nothing more,” the Embrace spokesperson said.

The critical age group targeted by the campaign is people between 18 and 35 years, but the hotline will be available to all.

Embrace is a nonprofit organization launched in 2013. It aims to promote mental health awareness in Lebanon and the Middle East. Its volunteers are affiliated with the department of psychiatry at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.

The initiative to launch Lebanon’s first national suicide prevention help line comes as part of an Embrace campaign titled “Talking saves lives,” which aims to break the social taboo around discussing suicide.

There is growing concern about suicide and mental illnesses in Lebanon, Embrace’s statement said.

According to the NGO, one person ends their own life every three days in Lebanon, but the number of people who are attempting suicide is much higher.

The statement also explained that many suicide deaths are often recorded as “natural, accidental, or of undetermined causes.”

According to the organization, a recent study showed that as many as 16 percent of Lebanese students in seventh and ninth grade have considered committing suicide.

The NGO hopes the help line might reduce the suicide rate by up to 57 percent.

In its first year of operations, 17 call operators will be available to answer the phone for 14 hours of every day, from noon until 2 a.m.

“People who ask for treatment through Embrace are [generally] expected to pay,” the Embrace member explained.

But underprivileged clients can request financial aid from the organization, which will seek to raise funds to cover the costs.

After the initial year of operations, Embrace hopes it will be able to run the hotline 24 hours a day.

The Embrace Lifeline initiative has received coordination and support from the Health, Interior and Social Affairs ministries, as well as the Internal Security Forces.

The hotline was officially launched at Embrace’s fundraising gala dinner, held Tuesday in Beirut.

Hundreds of supporters attended the event.

“We are deeply honored to finally be launching Embrace Lifeline,” Dr. Ziad Nahas, Embrace co-founder and professor and former chairperson of the department of psychiatry at AUBMC, said at Tuesday’s dinner.

“We know that suicide is a preventable event and that mental illness is treatable. The Embrace Lifeline will save lives and help people in Lebanon find the right services in their communities.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 14, 2017, on page 3.

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