by Bonnie Shelton
Posted on January 22, 2014 at 4:49 AM
Updated today at 7:34 AM
BOISE — Idaho’s suicide prevention hotline has been operating for more than a year now. The hotline was established in November of 2012.
Staff members say 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a lifeline helping encourage people across the state.
It’s also a resource that until recently was severely lacking in Idaho.
“We recognized that there was a huge void and yet, low hanging opportunity. We were one of very few states who did not have the crisis services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Nora Carpenter, United Way of Treasure Valley Executive Director.
Research shows Idaho has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.
“Our rate of suicide is about 49-percent higher than the national average,” said John Reusser, executive director of the hotline.
The United Way and other state organizations decided to take action, creating the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline. Highly-trained volunteers answer every call. They fielded about 1,000 calls in the last year.
“We’re going to try to make an emotional connection with them, ask them a lot of open ended questions,” said Reusser.
Each call is monitored by a social worker. The hotline’s executive director says in the first year, a few groups stood out that needed help, including teens, veterans, and family of military members.
“To have a resource that is free, widely available, anonymous and confidential is really vital for our state. It’s a front door that anyone can come through,” added Reusser.
Volunteers can recommend nearby resources and make follow-up calls to check on people who could be in trouble.
Right now, this office is open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s open a bit later on Thursday and Friday, until 1 a.m.
Soon, leaders hope to get enough money though donations and grants to stay open later–eventually 24 hours.
“The trend is going up in terms of call volume,” said Reusser.
Even when the Idaho office is closed, there’s always someone on the line to talk from the national organization. Often, volunteers from Portland field after-hours calls.
The executive director says he hopes to continue adding staff members and resources in the coming year.
“I feel like we’ve had a very successful first year and we are making a difference in people’s lives,” said Reusser.
If you or someone you know ever needs to talk, the hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). That number stays the same even during off-hours in Idaho.
For more information about the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline or to apply for a volunteer position in Idaho, click here.