(C) Gerlo Beernink, gerlo@gerlo.nl

Growing number of calls to suicide prevention hotline

The suicide prevention hotline “Zelfmoordlijn” was set up 40 years ago today on 30 April 1979. Since then volunteers have had a total of 267,000 conversations with people so desperate that in some cases they were considering ending their lives. Over the past 40 years “Zelfmoordlijn” has received a total of 18 calls each day. However, in recent years the number of calls received has risen.    

Consequently, the not-for-profit organisation has launched a campaign to recruit more volunteers. The VRT’s Danira Boukhriss and the commercial television channel VT4’s talk show co-host James Cooke are among the well-known Flemings supporting the campaign.   

A lot has changed over the past 40 years. Calls to Zelfmoordlijn are now free and it is manned 24/7. The suicide prevention line also has chat and e-mail facilities and it has an easy to remember four digit telephone number 1813.   

"But the principle, as much as possible lowering the threshold for people with suicidal thoughts to talk about their issues, has remained the same”, the Director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention Kirsten Pauwels told VRT News.   

Something that has changed though is the number of calls. Ms Pauwels told VRT News that during its first year of operation Zelfmoordlijn received 150 calls. By last year this had risen to 14,287, aan average of 40 per day (via mail, chat and telephone).    

"There has been a gigantic increase in the number of calls”, Ms Pauwels said.

She added that over the past 40 years the number of suicides and attempted suicides has remained more or less the same. The increase in the number of people contacting Zelfmoordlijn is linked to the increased ease with which it can be contacted and the fact that it is more well-known now.  

Those with questions concerning suicide can contact Zelfmoordlijn via telephone on 1813 or online