Bay Area Suicide Hotlines See Increase in Calls After Election

Callbox for crisis counseling on Golden Gate Bridge. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Some Bay Area suicide prevention hotlines say they experienced an increase in calls following the election of Donald Trump as president last week.

The San Francisco Suicide Prevention hotline saw a 30 percent spike in calls in the five days after the vote.

Director Courtney Brown said she’s never seen anything like it.

“We don’t have the numbers, but the only comparable incidents have been 9/11 and the Loma Prieta earthquake,” she said.

Brown was taking calls at 7 a.m. on Nov. 9, the day after the election. She said many of the callers were wondering what their lives were going to look like for the next four years.

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“Wondering if they’re going to have the same health care," she said. "Some of them wondering if they’re going to still be in the country -- still be allowed to be in the country.”

Brown started tracking these calls. In the five days after the election, around 20 percent of callers cited increased distress due to the election.

Brown's data go back to 2007. After previous elections, the records generally show a small bump in calls. And after President Obama's election in 2008, she says, there was even a slight decrease in the number of calls.

"It seems that there's something about this election that is really affecting the most vulnerable people in our community," Brown said.

Other suicide hotlines are reporting a similar pattern.

Joy Alexiou, public information officer for Santa Clara County's Behavioral Health Services, said an informal survey of hotline staff found an increase in calls post-election.

"While most callers expressed disappointment and worry about what will happen now that Trump is elected president, none of the callers disclosed or shared that they wanted to engage in suicidal behaviors because of election results," Alexiou wrote in an email.

Libby Craig, the Bay Area director of the national organization Crisis Text Line (80 percent of whose clientele are millennials), said the day after the election the service experienced four times the usual number of texters.

"The most common words we saw used by texters were 'scared' and 'election.' The word 'scared' was often associated with LGBTQ issues," Craig wrote in an email.

While there have been upticks in mental health calls related to past events like the San Bernardino terrorist attack and Robin Williams' suicide, according to Craig, this is the first time her organization has seen an increase related to politics.

If you or someone that you know is experiencing post-election distress, here is some advice from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which also received more calls than usual, both leading up to the election and in the aftermath.

  • Stick to routines. Even if you don’t feel like going to work or working out like you usually do, stick to going as much as possible. Routines ground us in the here and now, and remind us of things within our control that do not have to change.
  • Seek social supports. Talk about your thoughts and feelings with others, enjoy time to share experiences that can help you cope with the feelings, or distract you from them temporarily so you can take an “emotional breather.”
  • Limit your interaction with things that might aggravate your stress right now.
  • Take compassionate, caring actions to support others, where you can. Be the one to help a friend in crisis, or a stranger in need, or volunteer to assist others in a cause that you care about.
  • Call the Lifeline if you are in distress or would like to speak to someone. It’s available 24/7, and is free and confidential. You can call us at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).