Suicide Prevention Hotline seeks volunteers

Posted at 6:43 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 20:56:56-04

During the 2016 Idaho Legislative Session, lawmakers led an effort to combat the Gem state's high suicide rates.

The financial boost through state funding for prevention programs now awaits the governor's signature.

Meanwhile, one program is seeking volunteers.

The executive director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is looking for some willing volunteers who have some extra free time and are good listeners.

The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, is manned from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily at a Boise-based phone room.

Volunteer crisis phone responders who stick with it tend to have a personal tie to suicide.

"A lot of people come to us because they have lost someone to suicide, and they want to make a difference," said John Reusser, executive director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline group.

Others have had their own thoughts of self-harm. Either way, they have signed up to receive 45-plus hours of training.

Candidates, 21 and older who can pass a background check, are also asked to dedicate at least four hours a week to the hotline for one year.

Even after training, volunteers have continued support.

"I have master's level supervisors, clinician equivalent supervising the phone room," Reusser said. "And, they can silently monitor the call and coach that phone worker through a hard call, line-by-line, if necessary, through instant messaging."

New to this Spring's training course, a section on their new "Crisis Text and Chat Services."

It's something Boise State University social work senior Brianna Oswald spearheaded as part of her internship.

The new service is just getting off the ground with a pilot program. The goal is to reach a younger demographic that feels more comfortable communicating through texts.

Even if you can't spare the time to volunteer, Oswald encourages people to not be afraid to ask someone if they're contemplating suicide.

"You're not going to put the idea in somebody's head if you ask the question," Oswald said. "In fact, the majority of people who are feeling suicidal want you to ask that question and want you to reach out but it can be scary. Training like this helps those conversations happen."

The upcoming training course runs from April 23 to May 24. You can sign up on the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline's' website: For more information or for help signing up, dial (208) 401-8327.

In addition, you can keep them in mind on the first Thursday in May as the group is participating in Idaho Gives Day, the 24-hour, online, non-profit fundraising challenge.