Suicide calls jump amid foreclosures and economic woes.

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Sun, 2008-06-15 09:29.
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A local hot line has seen a dramatic spike in suicide calls from people in Palm Beach County who are facing foreclosure and can't pay their bills, according to numbers released today.

Since the start of the year, 256 people in the county told operators at the 211 hot line that they were thinking about suicide. Of those, 44 told operators that their main reason was that they had lost a job, were facing foreclosure, couldn't afford to pay their bills or were homeless.

During the same period in 2007, from Jan. 1 to June 10, the hot line received 137 suicide calls from people in Palm Beach County. Only 15 of those gave economic reasons.

The callers' problems seem markedly different than in the past, said Susan Buza, executive director of 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. Many callers, she said, have tried to find work for months.

One man said he had gotten hurt at work, then was fired. Another told the operators that he and his children were about to be evicted because he couldn't find anyone to hire him.

"They are not seeing any opportunity to get a job. And they are not seeing that this is going to turn around for them in a week or two," Buza said. "They have been out looking for jobs so they are really desperate and feeling that their backs are up against the wall."

Operators at the hot line, which has taken calls for help in Palm Beach County since 1971, "have never seen anything like this," Buza said.

The hot line also serves Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties but has not yet tabulated those suicide numbers.

Buza said she began adding up the numbers after operators noticed a rise in calls from people who could lose their homes.

"When we started looking at it, we were really shocked," she said.

Though the job market is extremely difficult, 211 keeps a directory of local services. Operators can refer people to food pantries, churches, job training, credit counseling, programs that help people keep their homes and government assistance like food stamps.

For help, simply dial 211 from anywhere in the five-county area.

[Via - PalmBeachPost.Com

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