July of last year, I went with the Carey Lab to Susan’s house on Martha’s Vineyard, a combination yearly lab get together and lab manager (me!) going away party. We were all sitting around her living room after dinner, talking about my plans for “the hotline”, when Susan asked me, “Have you thought about the research possibilities?”
Oh, yes. Data exists, now, that didn’t exist before. Nothing specific, of course. We don’t know anything specific, or have any identifying information on anyone. The reasons why these sorts of helplines work are the very reasons that the data comes with in-built constraints.
We’ve been up and running for a month, and we are making preparations to do preliminary analyses of general call characteristics. On the one hand, a month’s worth of data doesn’t tell me much. On the other hand, it is absolutely fascinating, because I had absolutely NO idea what was going to happen. I didn’t even know if the phone was going to ring at all. For now, and to a certain extent for always, most of what we look at is going to be through the lens of trying to improve the service. Whether or not we will be able to draw information that begins to address larger questions about suicide, mental health, and preventative services remains to be seen.