Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline starts taking calls today

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by Jamie Grey

NWCN.com

Posted on November 25, 2012 at 9:39 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 4:15 PM

BOISE -- Idaho is the only state without its own suicide prevention hotline, but that will change Monday afternoon. After years of planning and some recent delays, the state's hotline will take its first callers starting at 1 p.m.

The number is 1-800-273-TALK.

Since John Reusser came on board as the Executive Director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, he's seen how the hotline will impact the state.

"Several people, when they're donating something or were transacting some business for the hotline, say my 'fill in the blank' suicided. My friend, my loved one, my relative, my spouse. So it's just really incredible how many lives have been touched by this problem, including mine," Reusser said.

Reusser has lost friends to suicide and has previously worked at the Seattle area hotline. He says suicide prevention hotlines like the one that will open in Boise on Monday are truly lifesavers.

"They're incredibly effective. They are a way for people to reach out that may not have other supports. They can get crisis intervention, problem solving, resources and referrals," said Reusser. "We really want to help people before they get to that point where they are seriously at risk for suicide."

Since the state's hotline closed in 2006, Reusser says Idahoans in crisis had their calls answered out of state. Now with calls being answered in-state, Reusser says those people will get even more help and have more direction to Idaho resources, like school counselors.

"An Idaho hotline is going to be more effective because our phone workers, they're from Idaho," Reusser said. "They understand the problems particular to Idahoans -- That we have a rural population here, there's a sense of isolation; there are several communities that don't have really any specific mental health treatment available."

The statewide hotline will be answered by local volunteers Monday through Thursday from 9 to 5. After February, Reusser hopes to add Friday service. By the second year of operation, Reusser hopes the line will be answered by Idahoans 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Even though the hotline is only answered locally part of the time, anyone can call the number any time, day or night and talk to someone. Anyone in emotional crisis can call, as can anyone who is concerned about a friend or family member. The number is 1-800-273-TALK.

Again, the hotline transfers over to Idaho volunteers at 1:00 Monday afternoon. Before that, at 10 a.m., there will be a presentation on the Idaho Statehouse steps featuring many people who've been instrumental in getting this project off the ground. One of those will be Linda Peterson, the mother of Boise Olympic Medalist Jeret 'Speedy' Peterson, who took his own life last year.

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