Lawmaker: North Carolina suicide hotline "will not be shut down"

- A top North Carolina state lawmaker says the state's suicide prevention hotline "will no tbe shut down."

"It will continue to be funded," said Nelson Dollar (R-Wake County).

Funding for the North Carolina Suicide Prevention Lifeline was left out of the state's budget after the feds changed the way states can use mental health block grants. Dollar says lawmakers have identified ways to pay the more than $300,000 cost to keep the call center running before federal funding runs out on July 1.

"If it goes down then you have to figure out how 255 people that use that line every day are going to stay alive or not," said Fonda Bryant, a board member with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Bryant now advocates for mental health awareness after she almost became a statistic. 

"My depression was winning," she recalled. "I felt worthless. I felt hopeless. I felt like I wasn't going to get better."

Her aunt realized something was wrong when she offered to give away her shoes. Giving away possessions can be a warning sign, experts say, along with feelings of isolation, increased anxiety and substance abuse and sleeping too little or too much.

Read about the warning signs here and here.

"We don't want to die," said Bryant. "But that pain is so unbearable. that you feel like the only way out is by taking your own life."

In the same wake that saw the death of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, the Centers for Disease Control released a report that named suicide as the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. with the numbers rising.

From 1999-2016, the number of suicides increased 13 percent in North Carolina and 38 percent in South Carolina. 

"We're in an epidemic in this country with mental health and suicide," said Bryant.

The state's suicide prevention hotline offers local resources the national hotline doesn't. Bryant says lives are at stake. 

 "It's a matter of life and death," said Bryant. "That's how serious this is."

If you or a loved one needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

North Carolina Health and Human Services Statement:

The SAMHSA Block Grants requires the state to have a 24/7/365 suicide prevention hotline. In years past, our Division of Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services used Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG) dollars to fund and operate this service. Generally, MHBG dollars are reserved for adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances. The federal government has tightened their interpretation of this once allowable expense, and because the nature of the hotline service cannot guarantee that every caller has serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance, SAMHSA wouldn’t allow the expense. As such, the division has no other way to fund this critical service, and the governor requested it as a new expense in the budget.

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