Printed on: November 27, 2012

Statewide suicide hotline reconnected

By Clark Corbin
ccorbin@postregister.com

A group of nonprofits and mental health professionals have relaunched a statewide suicide hotline.

A team of 18 trained Idaho volunteers began taking calls on the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline on Monday. Any Idaho resident may call the toll-free number, (800) 273-8255, for assistance.

Jeni Griffin, an Idaho Falls resident and executive director of the Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho, said the new hotline is a great resource. Idaho's old suicide hotline was discontinued due to a lack of funding in 2006, and callers were instead connected to out-of-state call centers for help.

"This is something this state has really needed and missed the last six years," Griffin said. "We've been able to compile a database that the hotline will be using to find resources throughout the whole state that, obviously, the national hotline wouldn't know specifically about here in Idaho."

The Idaho database that Griffin is referring to includes contacts for hospitals, doctors, mental health agencies, first responders and crisis counselors. That information will allow hotline volunteers to provide the most current and helpful information to callers in the quickest way.

"They will be able to make referrals based on (a caller's) location," Griffin said. "For us to have our own hotline, with the resources we know of, it will be so much more helpful."

Supporters of the hotline said Idaho was an anomaly because it was the only state without a dedicated suicide hotline, despite having one of the highest rates of suicide in the country.

In 2010, Idaho had the sixth highest suicide rate in the nation, 49 percent higher than the national average, according to research by the Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho.

John Reusser, executive director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, said calls to the Idaho hotline will be answered by volunteers working out of an office in Boise. Eighteen volunteers completed suicide intervention training courses to be able to answer the calls, and an additional 24 volunteers will be trained in January.

The hotline will be answered all day every day, but Idaho volunteers will physically answer from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays initially. Calls outside that time frame will connect to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.

Idaho volunteers will expand their schedule to take more calls once additional volunteers are trained, Reusser said.

"We serve all of Idaho, and we need the support of everyone in the state -- individuals and organizations -- to be successful and grow and be sustainable," he said.

Clark Corbin can be reached at 542-6761. Comment on this story at Post Talk, www.postregis ter.com/posttalk.

Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline

Anyone may call (800) 273-8255 for free assistance any time. Visit www.idahosuicideprevention.org for details on the hotline.

Behavioral Indicators

Talking about suicide, making a plan or preoccupation with death

Giving prized possessions away

Change in weight/appetite

Withdrawal from family/friends, isolating

Preparation for death (i.e. setting one's affairs in order)

If you suspect a friend or loved one is considering suicide, take your suspicion seriously.

Source: www.idahosuicideprevention.org