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Last rites for Sweden's divine hotline

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Last rites for Sweden's divine hotline
15:11 CEST+02:00
The Swedish government is proposing to call time on a service that allows people to talk to a pastor by ringing the national emergency number 112, a move that counters action to cut suicide rates, the service's national coordinator has said.

A new report entitled "One authority for emergencies" proposes that SOS Alarm, the company that runs the 112 number, should be replaced with an agency that deals solely with police, ambulance, fire and rescue services, according to a report in the Christian newspaper Kyrkans Tidning on Thursday.

"Removing the service doesn't fit with the government's vision to reduce suicide rates,” Monica Eckerdal, national coordinator of the 112 pastor on-call service, told the newspaper.

In an further interview with Christian daily Dagen, Eckerdal added that the financial crisis and constraints on Sweden's mental health service has put increased pressure on the phoneline. Since 2008, the number of calls has increased by 40 percent.

"The problem today is that many people can't afford a landline and only own a mobile with pre-paid cards," she said. "When the money is gone you can still make emergency calls, so the call to us is perhaps the only chance people get to talk to someone all day."

The phone line is open daily between the hours of 9pm and 6pm with priests from the Swedish Church volunteering to lend their ear to those in crisis. It was first introduced on a regional level in the 1950s and has been linked to the 112 number since 2002.

"I'm not worried about it on the Swedish Church's part," Eckerdal told Dagen. "We are already equipped to start up an 020 number for emergency calls directly. But this is about those who are not able to call a number other than 112."

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