Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline asking for 41 percent volunteer increase

Image Courtesy: Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline via Facebook

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is asking for a 41 percent increase in volunteers.

John Reusser, Director of the Suicide Prevention Hotline, told KID NewsRadio the Boise-based call center usually sees an increase in calls during the fall months and hopes to add more volunteers in the coming days and weeks to help deal with the rise in calls.

We have right around 90 volunteers right now, and so while we have a lot of volunteers our goal is to have three to four volunteers on every one of our four shifts that we have from 8:00 a.m. to midnight,” John Reusser told KID NewsRadio. “That’s why we put out the specific call for more volunteers to recruit for our fall volunteer responder class.

Overall, the hotline is seeing more people reach out this year, Reusser said. In 2017, the hotline received 9,531 contacts. This year, the hotline is projected to exceed that with 8,389 contacts in 2018. Reusser told KID NewsRadio the hotline is on track to receive around 15,000 contacts this year.

Seeing such an increase in callers is often a point of concern for the public, Reusser said. According to the Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN), 13 percent of high school students reported making a plan about how they would attempt suicide. Between 2012-2016, SPAN reports, approximately 7,100 people over 18 attempted suicide in Idaho.

But, knowing more people are reaching out is encouraging in some ways, Reusser said, and means more people are learning about the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline and using it in times of crisis.

I think there’s always been a need for our service in the states,” Reusser said. “You know, we went from 2006 to 2012 with no statewide suicide prevention hotline, and so I think that we’re fulfilling a need that was already in existence in our state. So, I’m actually encouraged to see the numbers go up because that tells me that more people are aware of our service and more people are accessing it.”

Anyone over 18 can apply to be a volunteer on the hotline, no prior experience is necessary. Reusser said those who pass the interview process and background check, will then complete the 55-hour training course to better hone their abilities to listen and help those in crisis.

We’re looking for people that…are empathetic, good listeners, can respond to our callers, our help seekers, with a kind of open accepting and non-judgemental attitude and that can do you know, sort of collaborative problem solving with them,” Reusser said.

While the phone center is currently only based in the Treasure Valley, Reusser said the hotline needs people across the state who are willing to spread the message of hope and help by calling.

“We would love the involvement and support of folks outside the Treasure Valley where we’re trying to get people interested in helping us spread the word,” Reusser said. “You know, we’d be happy to send outreach materials out to anybody around the state who could maybe share them with organizations in their local community that might benefit from having information about the hotline.”

Anyone interested in getting involved can visit the Idaho Suicide Prevention hotline website.

The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached by calling or texting, (208) 398-4357 or via their online chat (click here). The National Suicide Prevention LifeLine can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.