Commentary: Idaho needs to reinstate suicide hotline

Even in their deepest despair, people contemplating suicide often refuse to call 911.

They do not want the stigma of having a police car or an ambulance show up at their front door. Especially in small-town Idaho, where everyone knows their neighbors, they don't want to become the topic of local gossip.

These same people will call a suicide prevention hot line — to talk to someone who can offer counsel and point them in the direction of local services.

A suicide hot line provides a life-saving service that cannot be duplicated. But Idaho's statewide hot line shut down about three years ago. It's time to change that, even if this requires a small investment of scarce state or local tax dollars.

According to preliminary numbers, 248 Idahoans committed suicide in 2008, a 12.7 percent increase from 2007. Idaho's suicide rates have historically been among the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, experience suggests that a hot line requires modest but stable public funding.

Idaho's hot line eventually went statewide nearly 20 years ago, funded largely through the United Way, grants and private donations. The hot line never received ongoing public dollars, said Peter Wollheim, co-chairman of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Idaho Statesman.