Government focuses on suicide prevention

A sign advising of the phone number for a suicide-prevention hotline is shown on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007. The signs, along with telephone call boxes, were put up in December, in efforts to reduce the number of people who jump to their deaths from the bridge. Eight people did so in 2006. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is urging a new focus on preventing suicides, especially among military veterans — and is beefing up the nation’s crisis hotline to help.

U.S. health officials said nearly 100 people every day commit suicide, and many more attempt it. The military has seen an alarming increase in suicides this year.

The federal government announced Monday it will boost staff by 50 percent at the national hotline — 1-800-273-TALK — that’s open to military and civilians alike. It provided $55.6 million for state and local programs, and highlighted Facebook features that link distressed users to counselors.

And it is beginning public service announcements urging people to seek help if they spot signs that someone is suicidal.

As Surgeon General Regina Benjamin put it, “Preventing suicide is everyone’s business.”

— Associated Press