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Marie von Hafften is a 2018 Story Fellow with the Solutions Journalism Network, curating reporting on responses to social problems. She is inspired by the power of solutions-oriented reporting to offer road maps for change. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she studied international affairs and public policy at Columbia University and has worked for UN Women, UNOCHA and KYRS-Thin Air Community Radio. Her writing and photography have been published by PRI/GlobalPost, Christian Science Monitor, Next Billion and Global Envision.
The deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain are making headlines, and many - myself included - are looking for responses, ways to help our friends and community members who may feel hopeless.
The issue is urgent. Suicide rates increased in every U.S. state except Nevada from 1999 to 2016, according to a CDC report. And sadly, the United States has nowhere near the highest rate of suicide worldwide.
Here’s a place to start:
This piq explains how a 24-hour crisis line in the United States uses text messaging to connect people in distress with volunteer counselors.
Nancy Lublin, the founder of Crisis Text Line, says the nonprofit is meeting people in pain where they are at. Texting is a familiar way to communicate, particularly for today's young people, and it offers more anonymity than speaking aloud on the phone.
“These cell phones are lifelines. The pain that we see from people largely comes from isolation and shame. And by being able to connect to us in a private, anonymous way they feel stronger.”
The counselors go through background checks and a 34-hour training program, and they can connect with police if a texter is at serious risk for suicide. So far, counselors have exchanged more than 56 million text messages with people in crisis, and 62 percent of texters report feeling less alone or more hopeful after counseling.
Volunteering has made a profound impact on Ronni Higger, a counselor whose own life plans changed dramatically after being diagnosed with a chronic illness.
“I realized that you don’t need a Ph.D. to save lives."
In the United States, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Additional resources are available at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.
If you are not based in the United States, you can find more helplines and other resources through Befrienders.org. And here's a story about another innovative volunteer-run crisis line in Chennai, India.