YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – At the end of National Suicide Prevention Month, Ohio launched a new texting program aimed at saving lives.
Approximately 1,500 Ohioans take their own lives every year, according to Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services. State officials are hoping the Crisis Text Line will combat that number.
The text line is a free, confidential way to connect to a trained crisis counselor. It’s aimed at people struggling with suicidal thoughts, but is also open to those who are depressed or victims of bullying.
Ohio’s Crisis Text Line, which is part of the national organization, officially launched across the state on Thursday.
One of the main advantages of the text line is that a text can be sent from anywhere, in any situation. For example, if a student is being bullied in a group of people, they can send a text without worrying that anyone will see.
Duane Piccirilli, Executive Director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, was in Columbus Thursday, learning about the new technology.
“We’re excited because texting is the way of the future and young people text,” he said. “With suicide rates and bullying being so high, kids will have instant access.”
All someone has to do is text the keyword “4hope” to 741-741 to talk with a counselor. It operates 24/7, is completely free and won’t even show up on a cell phone bill.
“If there’s a need for local support, they’ll be referred to the local community,” Piccirilli said.
If the counselor feels there is an emergency at hand, they will call 911 or transfer the person to talk with someone on the phone. Piccirilli is working to make that phone partnership with the local Help Hotline organization.
During its pilot program in Stark County, the Crisis Text Line saved two lives and has 70 to 80 people getting in touch by text every month.