Analysis of a National Toll Free Suicide Crisis Line in South Africa

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The first national toll free suicide crisis line for South Africa was launched in October 2003 with the aim of providing a service dedicated to the prevention of suicide in this country. The intervention was motivated by South Africa's suicide rate which had risen higher than the global suicide rate, with the majority of attempted suicides occurring among people younger than 35 years of age (WHO, 2002). Demographic characteristics of callers were identified to evaluate the perceived helpfulness of this crisis line, so as to inform planning and implementation of future suicide prevention programs. Results showed that the majority of callers were female; between the ages of 16 and 18 years; and lived in the provinces of Gauteng, North West, or KwaZulu Natal. Callers were more likely to be from urban than rural areas; were still at school, unemployed, or studying at a tertiary institution; and had not previously attempted suicide. The majority of participants did perceive the crisis line as helpful. The continued collection of demographic data from the crisis line is recommended so that South Africa can create an updated database of areas and sectors of the population that require suicide intervention, and for planning and implementing suicide prevention programs in this country.

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