Saving Lives in the Digital Age


It's a difficult subject to talk about, but one Idaho group wants to get the conversation going.

The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline has been in the business of saving lives for five years now. Stationed in Boise, they're finding new ways to reach out to those who need to talk across the Gem State.

Founding director John Reusser says, "More and more people know somebody, they've lost someone to suicide or they know somebody whose lost somebody to suicide. It's affecting more people and more people are willing to talk about it."

Idaho consistently has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. In 2015, it was ranked number five, with one Idahoan dying by suicide almost every day.

But there's one place those in crisis can turn to no matter the time or day.

Reusser says, "We are Idaho's only 24 hour a day suicide prevention hotline."

John Reusser is the founding director of Idaho's Suicide Prevention Hotline, or ISPH. This past month they celebrated five years helping Idahoans through nearly every crisis, from domestic violence to unemployment.

Reusser explains that the past five years have, "just been tremendous. We launched at the end of November in 2012. We had 18 volunteers."

Today they have 90 volunteers, who go through over 50 hours of training to be able to handle even the toughest calls. And now there's even more ways to reach them.

Reusser says, "We know that young people primarily use texting to communicate versus phone calls now. We also wanted to be more open to people who are more comfortable interacting in a text space or a chat space versus on the phone."

You can now text or chat online. After a few simple questions about what's going on, you'll be connected to a real person.

"One of our resonders would then type, 'Hello, how are you? This is so-and-so.' Then it would just be like an interaction on Facebook messenger," John explains.

This year they had almost 8,500 crisis contacts, up from under 1,000 when they started. Reusser believes the future is bright, but hopes this conversation will keep going.

"The name's getting out there but I really would like there to be like a magnet on every refrigerator, a wallet card in every kids' backpack, and a sticker on everybodys' notebook. I'd like the hotline contact numbers to be in every cellphone across the state."

Reusser says the next thing they're looking at is developing an app for smartphones.

For more information click on this link

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