Suicide prevention resources in Tennessee

Tennessee offers multiple suicide prevention resources, and there is national help available to people in need as well.
Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 4:14 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - When you need someone to talk with, no matter what's troubling you, you can count on a service that's free to you, based right here in East Tennessee. Contact Care Line uses only a few paid staff with a large network of volunteers to answer crisis calls made to 1-800-273-TALK (8255). However, if you're more comfortable texting someone with your concerns - maybe something you wouldn't tell anyone else - Contact Care Line has that way of helping you, too.

Executive Director Bruce Marshall says Contact has begun as of July 1 offering chat services as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Federal grant funds now begin in the amount of $200,000 per year to support the chat system, and the organization based in Oak Ridge will communicate with people in crisis from around the nation.

Marshall said the online system for chatting will reach more young people who might be in need. ”For chats, we’re finding that younger people are much more inclined to chat rather than pick up the phone,” Marshall said. “The 11, 12, 13-year-olds are really well represented where we see very few of those making calls to the NSPL. So we feel this is a way that meets their need.”

Contact Care will continue offering phone services, Marshall added. “We’ll be able to answer 23,000 chats every year because of this grant, and it’s a renewable sort of grant.”

Volunteers can now remain at their own homes while answering calls or chats.

Volunteers Azita Saed, a recent University of Tennessee graduate, and Mike Baker, a retired police officer, both say they’ve heard more calls lately from people anxious during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can’t offer them a job. We can’t offer them money. But we can offer them an ear,” said Baker. “We can offer them understanding and empathy and I think sometimes that’s what people need.”

Saed said they’re seeing people with a lot of general anxiety. “Just a general world anxiety is what I’m getting from people’s issues,”

Marshall said he needs more volunteers, and that they need no special background to qualify. They do have to be willing to go through training - to listen. Volunteers typically do not offer advice, but instead practice empathetic listening and have information resources at hand for anyone who wants them. Contact Care Line is the only crisis line of its kind for the 865 area code.

Learn more about how to volunteer here.

Other than Contact Care, there are other resources in Tennessee and nationwide that people in need can use.

You can get help from the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) here. The TSPN “offers a variety of resources for members and the general public, all available for free consultation or download.”

The Jason Foundation offers a suicide helpline for anyone experiencing a crisis. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “Jason” to 741741.

The Tennessee Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers help via the National hotline 800-273-8255 or you can text by sending TALK to 741741.

The Trevor Project is “leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.” LGBTQ people can get suicide prevention services by calling 1-866-488-7386 24/7 or by texting START to 678-678.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

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