The logo of 'Life's Line' (Linja e Jetes), Photo/Official Account of 'Life's Line' on Facebook

Kosovo’s ‘Life’s line’: Regulatory Hurdles Threaten Suicide Prevention Efforts

Kosovo's only suicide prevention hotline is facing significant challenges with its telephone service providers, jeopardizing its crucial role in suicide prevention efforts.

Linja e Jetës (Life’s Line), Kosovo’s sole suicide prevention hotline, is encountering issues with telephone service providers. The hotline organisers claim these difficulties would not be occurring if Linja e Jetës were an institutional service or had its own dedicated line similar to  other emergency services in the public sector.

Bind Skeja, the co-founder of Linja e Jetës, announced on March 13 on X (formerly Twitter), that the hotline would no longer be receiving calls from one of the telecom operators in Kosovo due to changes they had to make in their providers.

“A week ago, the cable operator ‘Kujtesa’ with whom we had an agreement since 2019 and had offered this service pro bono, notified us that the Electronic and Postal Communications Regulatory Authority, ARKEP, had sent them a service termination notice,” Skeja told Prishtina Insight on Thursday.

Skeja emphasised that in their initial agreement with Kujtesa, Linja e Jetës spoke with the public telecom provider Vala’s representatives and were assured that calls from Vala numbers would be regulated to come through on our hotline providers, enabling us to handle multiple calls simultaneously.

Skeja stated that these problems arose because Linja e Jetës functions as an NGO, arguing that “if we were (within a public) institution, this wouldn’t have happened, it doesn’t happen to the police, emergency services, etc., because they have regulated this issue, they have their own lines”.

The suicide hotline is staffed by over 50 dedicated volunteers and provides invaluable support to callers  from 2:00 PM to 02:00 AM. The hotline’s operational disruptions underscore the urgent need for institutional recognition and stable funding to ensure its uninterrupted service to those in crisis.

Moreover, according to Skeja, Kujtesa should have informed them earlier so they could have more time to negotiate another agreement and notify the operators with the procedures that had to be followed.

“During this time, we have been transferred to Kosovo Telecom (Vala) , with no opportunity for negotiation for any donations due to the short time to find a solution, so now we have additional financial burden as we had to pay for an IT expert,” Skeja explained.

Telekom informed Linja e Jetës that connecting with private telecom operator IPKO takes several days and that numbers registered with this operator would not be able to call the hotline.

Skeja said the hotline has constantly requested that the Ministry of Health designate Linja e Jetës  an institutional service.

“We have requested it in the health law, but it has been refused.”

Currently, Linja e Jetës is financed by the Community Development Fund, CDF,  which was established in partnership with the Soros Foundation/Open Society Institute. They also take small grants from the Municipality of Prishtina and the Ministry of Health.

“We are also waiting for an agreement with the EU for funding,” Skeja added.

Skeja told Prishtina Insight that suicide reports in Kosovo are on the rise, and that he considers  the way these cases are recorded by the police as a problem, as they often coincide with ‘suspicious death’ cases.

He called on the Kosovo government to develop a strategy for suicide prevention.

“There is no suicide prevention service offered in the public system. They only refer people to the psychiatry clinic,  it’s a completely untouched territory, from the Government” Skeja emphasised.

“It would be good if the Government gave us that number, or even provided this service themselves if they don’t want to collaborate with us,” he added.

Linja e Jetës was established in 2019 by a team of 29 volunteers after they received training from staff members of 113, a Dutch suicide prevention organization.

The helpline provides emotional support to people in a way that is, as Skeja told Prishtina Insight, “completely anonymous, completely confidential, and completely free of charge”.

15/03/2024 - 14:45

15 March 2024 - 14:45

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.