The pattern of crisis calls to a suicide telephone helpline service in Nigeria
Background: Suicide is the deliberate killing of oneself. Although it is preventable, suicide accounts for over 800,000 global deaths annually. There is the need to scale-up prevention strategies, and one of these strategies is the provision of suicide telephone helplines.
Objectives: To describe the pattern of calls received by a suicide telephone helpline and the types of intervention provided in a Nigerian facility.
Methods: This was a descriptive study of the first 100 completed calls received on a 24-hour suicide telephone helpline service by trained responders.
Results: All the calls emanated from 14 states of the federation, with the majority (83.0%) from the Southern parts of the country. The reasons for the telephone calls varied from crisis situations (47.0%) to telephone number-verification (27.0%), mental health information (20.0%), and others (6.0%). The mean age of the crisis -situation callers was 25.8 years, with a slight female preponderance (53.2%); most were single in marital status (68.1%) and unemployed (70.2%). A majority (72.3%) of the callers had an underlying mental condition, 68.1% had suicidal ideation while 12.8% had previously attempted suicide. All the crisis callers were offered interventions ranging from phone counselling to linkage to the nearest mental health services.
Conclusion: A majority of the crisis callers were offered mental health services, raising the possibility that the availability of telephone helplines may play a role in suicide prevention in Nigeria.
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