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Celebrity suicides spark uptick in crisis line calls in Utah

(Photo Credit: Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP file)

SALT LAKE CITY — Crisis counselors in Utah say the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are triggering a lot of calls to suicide hotlines.  However, they say they’re glad more people are reaching out for help.

The University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute has contracted with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to handle the calls that come to the crisis line from Utah.  On Friday, crisis counselors saw a big uptick in calls after the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death.

Crisis Services Manager Barry Rose says, “Our numbers increased 60 percent on our lifeline calls.”

Rose says this is typical after a high-profile celebrity suicide.  They call it the “contagion effect,” and it happens when a fan has a hard time dealing with the death.

“You feel a personal connection with a celebrity.  Robin Williams was a big example. We had to bring in extra staff after he committed suicide because we had such an increase in calls,” Rose says.

However, the increased calls could be a positive sign.  Rose says many of the articles are showing people going through suicidal thoughts how they can reach out for help.

“There is a lot more publishing of the lifeline number,” Rose says, adding, “Not many of the calls are directly related to the celebrities.  It’s more people talking about their personal issues.  So, I think the bulk of it is because of increased awareness.”

Suicide prevention resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Crisis Hotlines
  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-691-5433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
Online resources
Mobile Apps
       SafeUT App
Warning signs & what to do if someone needs help
Warning signs of suicide
  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.

Information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

What to do if you see warning signs of suicide
  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

Information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.