BEIRUT: Embrace is the first suicide hotline in Lebanon and the first NGO, founded in 2013, to address mental illness in Lebanon. Its hotline, 1564, operates from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., thanks to 55 operators.
On Sunday, more than 200 people from all walks of life united together for a memorial walk for suicide prevention, led by Embrace. The walk took place from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. at Raouche.
“Every year, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day, which is on September 10, Embrace organizes the ‘into the dawn’ walk, which is a yearly memorial walk that aims to raise awareness on suicide and provide a supportive community to individuals who have lost someone to suicide or who are still struggling with suicidal thoughts,” Mia Atwi, co-founder of Embrace, told Annahar.
“We're working on making the hotline available 24/7 in 2020, because there’s a need, and people should be able to call someone at any time when they’re in distress,” Atwi said.
Among the crowd were over 25 Embrace volunteers, some of whom are suicide hotline operators. “People from all ages call us; you have those below the age of 10 and those above the age of 60,” hotline operator Ramy Eid, who’s also a business and psychology student at LAU, told Annahar.
“Most of the time, they just need someone to talk to, someone to listen to them and validate their feelings, and we’re here for them,” he added.
Embrace had recently published new statistics on its website that show they had taken more than 1500 calls for emotional support and suicide prevention in 2018. The website also states that Embrace had reached more than 1300 persons in awareness efforts, and had made more than 100 media appearances between 2017-2018.
“We consider this quite an achievement,” Atwi said.
As for the crowds that turned up, most of them had been directly affected by suicides of people they know or had attempted suicide themselves.
“My husband committed suicide five years ago,” a participant who wished to remain anonymous told Annahar. “If Embrace had had their hotline then, maybe he would still be alive now.”
“I had a friend who was suicidal and it was very tough,” hotline operator Riham Qanout told Annahar, “but every time we talk he would feel better, so I thought like this is something I can do and that I have the ability to help others in need.”
Others had suffered severe abuse, which led them to attempt suicide.
“I was raped for five years as a kid by three people, and when my parents found out, they didn’t do anything and they didn’t give it importance, thinking that it’s just something normal that happens between children,” Mohammad, 17, told Annahar.
“You reach a point where you start having suicidal thoughts because there’s no support system next to you and no one is interested in your story. But things got much better when I met Embrace,” he added.
Members from the NGO Helem were also present to show support for the LGBTQ community “which faces persecution on a daily basis,” as Helem member Margo told Annahar.
“They are bullied and marginalized and rejected by their own family, which leads many of them to commit suicide. This has to stop,” Margo added,
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