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Drop in funding concerns suicide helplines

Teresa Mosley said she had trouble, at first, determining what was bothering her 15-year-old daughter, Elisabeth.

"It was hard at the age of 15 to decide if this was truly a mental health issue or if it was just normal teenage angst," she said.

It was anxiety and depression, and after battling it for years, Elisabeth died from suicide in 2006. She was one of thousands of Americans who struggle with suicidal thoughts, and those numbers are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every state except Nevada is seeing an increase in deaths by suicide. Nationwide, they rose by 33 percent from 1999 to 2017, even though the population rose by only17 percent during that time.

Non-profit organizations like Vialink are doing the best they can, as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s network, however they are being squeezed by a combination of more need for services, and a flat line in funding.

"The funding has not changed for them nor the number of centers answering the calls. So that puts it on centers like us to handle more calls, which is a strain,” said LaVondra Dobbs, the C.E.O. of Vialink.

The National Lifeline is only able to offer a yearly stipend of $1500 to partner organizations whose annual operating expenses are often in the hundreds of thousands. Without extra state and federal support, some organizations have been forced to hang up their lines, which creates even more issues for people who need crisis support.

"If there’s not a center that’s going to be available locally, someone who calls the lifeline is going to be routed out of state and so that’s going to create another challenge," said Brenda Patterson, the Executive Director of Contact the Crisis Line, a non-profit based in Jackson, MS.

The U.S. Senate passed legislation in June to increase funding to the National Lifeline, but those who run the help lines said they would like to see that funding triple.

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