The University of Tennessee Health Science Center has supported the Memphis Crisis Center since the 24/7 crisis hotline was founded almost 40 years ago. UTHSC is partnering with the crisis center this month, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, to help raise public awareness of the hotline number and the around-the-clock help the center provides.
UTHSC has worked with the crisis center to place billboards around the Memphis area bearing the message: “Need Help? We Care 24/7 and the hotline number 901.CRISIS.7 or 901.274.7477. The university donated space on the prominent billboard at Union and Manassas on the campus and worked with Lamar Advertising Company of Memphis to secure space on 10 smaller billboards throughout the community.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in the United States is at its highest since World War II. In 1999, there were 10.5 suicides per 100,000 people. In 2017, there were 14 per 100,000.
The numbers continue to climb in Tennessee. Suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death in Tennessee, and the state’s rate of 17.3 per 100,000 tops the national rate. According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, suicide rates for males are generally four times higher than those for females. The number of suicides in Tennessee increases with age through ages 45 to 49, then levels off, before spiking again after age 75. As of 2015, suicide was the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 10-19 in the state
Executive Director Mike LaBonte encourages anyone facing a life challenge and in need of a compassionate listener to call the confidential hotline. “Don’t wait to get help, go ahead and reach out,” he said. “There is hope and you’re not alone. Your life is worth a phone call.”
Along with the billboard campaign, the Memphis Crisis Center has several events this month to raise awareness and funds for its operation.
- September 14: “Don’t Let Your Song Fade Away,” a rock concert benefiting the Memphis Crisis Center. A dozen bands play throughout the day from 1 p.m. -1 a.m. at Rockhouse Live, 5709 Raleigh-Lagrange in Bartlett, $10 admission.
- September 19: “Live to Tell: Saving Lives Suicide Prevention Conference.” This event is being put on by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, with the Memphis Crisis Center as a major sponsor. Hope Church, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/live-to-tell-saving-lives-in-memphis-shelby-county-suicide-prevention-conference-tickets-62607449567
- September 23: Memphis Crisis Center Benefit Dinner at Char Restaurant. All proceeds benefit the Memphis Crisis Center. Four-course dinner from 6-9 p.m. Reservations required.
LaBonte stresses that the center is ready to help with all types of crisis calls. Calls also come in from people dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and elder abuse, as well as financial and health issues. “We’re a full-service crisis line,” he said.
UTHSC partners with the Memphis Crisis Center providing space for its call center, training facility, and administrative offices on the campus.