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Suicide prevention by texting?

by Karin L. Nauber

Texting seems to be the preferred method of communication for young and old alike these days. Although texting can take various forms through various apps, the concept is the same: sending our thoughts and feelings through typed/texted words instead of talking face-to-face or on the phone.

The Crisis Line has been trying to keep pace with continually shifting technology over the years and now it includes suicide prevention by text messaging among its many services.

The Crisis Line is a 24-hour life-line for people in the counties of Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena. 

“We envision all people having access to resources that help them to cope or solve their problems. Whether they need a listening ear, information, referral resources or emergency mental health service intervention, the Crisis Line is always there to help in the crisis or help de-escalate the situation before it becomes a crisis,” said Reenie Phillips, one of the Crisis Line and Referral Service staff.

“It is our purpose to focus on community visibility and the accessibility of the Crisis Line and Referral Service, the better our communities visibility and the accessibility the more likely someone will call us for help,” said Phillips.

 The TXT4Life program was extended to all of Minnesota in the 3rd quarter of 2016. TXT4Life can be reached by texting LIFE to 61222. 

The program is staffed by trained counselors 24 hours a day 7 days a week through Canvas Health.

 The Crisis Line is a nonprofit 501(C)(3) funded by donations and grants and by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

 According to Phillips, “The TXT4Life program has recently extended its program to the entire state of Minnesota  which is 76 counties. In the 3rd quarter of 2016 we responded to over 6886 texts.”

 They also answered 7482 calls.  

“Calls have been steadily increasing over the years for the Crisis Line and TXT4Life,” noted Phillips.

 The Crisis Line Suicide Prevention Program covers the same six counties and presents their Suicide Prevention Program in 20 school districts.  

Each student is given a resource book that covers any topic that may be of help to them. 

“With our Suicide Prevention Project, we try to reach as many new students as possible. These students will learn about depression and the alternatives to suicide, drugs, alcohol, and bullying. We will present the Suicide Prevention Program in the fall to new seventh graders. Along with the project, we encourage the schools to create youth boards that will help keep the awareness going throughout the school year and help keep the new programs sustainable,” said Phillips.

Materials including youth pages and wristbands with the crisis line number on them are given to each student so that they can refer to them in the future should the need arise.

“After each Suicide Prevention Project, we have each student fill out a post survey. This survey allows us to identify what the students understood about depression and suicide and what we need to be more specific on. It also allows them to ask for help that day for themselves or someone else they may be concerned for. We encourage asking for help as the alterative to suicide,” she added.

If you are interested in being a volunteer who can help answer phone calls, Phillips said they are able to schedule information presentations for the TXT4Life at any time that is convenient for the group interested. 

“There is a program called QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) which is a training so people can learn to recognize the signs of someone who may be considering suicide. This training teaches how to recognize these signs, how to ask if the person is considering suicide and how to refer the person to help,” said Phillips.

There is no cost for any of the presentations.

 The QPR  training is also provided to businesses, hospitals, churches and community organizations. This teaches attendees how to recognize the signs of a suicidal person, who to question is they are thinking of suicide, and persuade that person to talk to a professional before they make the final decision. 

The Crisis Line is always looking for volunteers and would love to have anyone interested contact Mary Marana at 218-828-4515. 

Please contact the Crisis Line office at 218-828-4515 for more information or to schedule a presentation on any of these programs.

If you are an individual in need of help, please call the Crisis Line and Referral Service at 218-828-4357 or 800-462-5525

 If you would prefer to text, please text LIFE to 61222 and you will be connected to the call center which is staffed by trained counselors to provide resources or just a supportive listener.  It is confidential for all users.

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