Suicidal Calls to a Telephone Emergency Service
Itzchak Gilat, Zvi E. Gil
ERAN (Israel Association for Emotional First Aid)
Suicidal threats and suicidal ideation among callers to the Israeli hot-line (ERAN) were investigated, using 2 methods of analysis. The first, an epidemiological survey based on 8,272 calls received by all 8 ERAN posts during 2 years, reported on their standard form for recording interactions with suicidal callers. The second is content analysis of 42 detailed reports of interactions with such callers. Epidemiological analysis revealed a higher rate of suicidal ideation among callers with a psychiatric history, compared with those without a history. However, the 2 groups did not differ in rate of suicidal threats. In addition, suicidal threats of adolescents were related mainly to problems of identity and self-image, while mental disorders were the main problems among adults. Content analysis identified 2 patterns of terminating the interaction, which represent 2 strategies of intervention to prevent suicide. The first is establishing a contact between the caller and an appropriate individual in the caller's environment who undertakes responsibility to help the caller. The second strategy is reducing the caller's tension, leading to a withdrawal of the suicidal threat. The first pattern is more characteristic of interactions with psychiatric callers, while the second is more frequent among non-psychiatric callers to ERAN. The hot-line makes a unique contribution in helping those threatening suicide, which constitutes a real emergency.