Volunteers At Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline Trained To Handle Mental Health Issues

Nov 28, 2012

Volunteer Nina Leary works her first shift at the new suicide prevention hotline.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline began taking calls this week. The hotline is the first of its kind in Idaho since 2006, when state funding for the previous hotline ran out.

Up until Monday’s launch, Idahoans in crisis were routed to a call center in other western states. But executive director John Reusser says it’s important for people who are contemplating suicide to have an empathetic ear on the other end – someone who understands Idaho’s unique rural culture.

The hotline’s volunteers can point callers to mental health resources in their own communities.

“We can work closely with police and first responders and mental health professionals and schools all over the state," Reusser says. "So there’s a lot of value from that kind of close collaboration with other people that are invested in the welfare of the people of Idaho.”

Reusser says Idahoans are self-reliant and independent people, but asking for help is not something that should be stigmatized. He says Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) persons are at a higher risk of suicide nationally, and rural isolation can also be a factor.

“It’s important that we reach out to the LGBTQ population and everyone," says Reusser. "Everybody needs to be talking about the issue of suicide; everyone deserves support and advocacy and help.”

Right now the hotline’s 18 volunteers can only staff shifts from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, but Reusser says they will expand to Friday in February.  The hotline is currently funded by a number of sources, including non-profits and state agencies. Reusser says more sustained funding will be needed in the future.

Up until this week, Idaho was the only state without its own suicide prevention hotline. In 2010, Idaho’s suicide rate was sixth in the nation.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio