Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline expands services

The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is expanding its services by adding an additional phone line for people to call in crisis.

I’m a volunteer at the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline and have been answering phones, chats and texts for a little more than two years.

It can be ... tough, yes. Picking up the phone to hear someone’s ragged, raw sobbing, so out of breath they can’t talk ... or hearing the desperate plea of a parent of how can they help their son or daughter in crisis ... or just being there when that person on the other end of the line has no one else they can talk to .... .

Tough, yes ... but I am more proud of the four-hour shift I do at the hotline than just about anything I’ve ever done in my life, save for being the mother to my three great kids and grandmother to my six fantastic grandchildren.

Who may need to call someone sometime — and I hope someone is there to answer their call.

Which brings me to the reason I am writing this column today. There has been an uptick in the number of calls coming in to the hotline, so much so that Alex McNish, the ISPH volunteer coordinator, put out a call for volunteers last week.

It’s no wonder that there are more calls because a new study released by shows Idaho has the No. 5 highest suicide rate in America with 22.9 suicides per 100,000 people.

So far this year, ISPH volunteers and staff have fielded over 8,000 crisis contacts, including phone calls, texts and online chats.

But that’s just not enough.

You can help — you only have to commit to one four-hour shift a week for a year.

There is a training class that starts Saturday, Sept. 14; applications are due by Sept. 8. The 50-plus hour training is comprehensive and is available to anyone over 18 years old.

Also good to know: you’re never alone with a person in crisis — every shift has a professional supervisor who supports all volunteers on every call, text or chat.

So what are you waiting for?

This is a way to make a real difference. All you need to do to be a volunteer is to be a good listener and know computer basics. Yeah, it can be tough ... but the rewards are priceless.

Call or email Alex McNish at 208-258-6992 /; or visit the website at: to apply.

Also, if someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, they can call this number, 24/7: 208-398-4357.

Jeanne Huff is the community engagement editor for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at 208-465-8106 and follow her on Twitter @goodnewsgirl.

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