“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.”
The suicide rate in the United States has steadily increased since 1999.
In fact, the rate has tripled among girls 10 to 14 years old. It’s even up 43 percent among men 45 to 64 years old. To combat these hard numbers, our nation desperately needs a deeper strategic investment in life-saving crisis care.
That’s why every September we recognize National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This month recognizes the effective work being done via crisis phone lines and care systems.
Every day, I see the hope crisis care hotlines provide to those in need.
This care can truly make a pivotal difference. In fact, family members we’ve spoken to have attributed crisis care as a difference-maker when a loved one considered taking their own life.
As the Vice President of Customer Engagement Operations for Centerstone, my role involves oversight of crisis services, including telephonic crisis intervention for nine local and national hotlines such as the Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line, National Suicide Prevention Line, NFL LifeLine and targeted numbers for teens and veterans.
Based on that experience, here are three important takeaways about crisis care.
1) Crisis Care Lines Are the Front Line
Like a soldier keeping watch, hotline professionals are available to provide suicide prevention services 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Callers receive a free risk assessment conducted by the highly trained crisis consultant and a commitment to remain engaged in conversation until safety is established, de-escalating the war inside.
Centerstone has also partnered with The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to offer a confidential, secure and anonymous way of reaching out for help when you don’t know where else to turn. This chat service is available 24/7.
2) It’s More than a Phone Call
Contacting a suicide prevention hotline begins a thoughtful, thorough process of care.
Master’s level and Licensed Crisis Care Consultants listen then link callers to appropriate services. In fact, they even dispatch a mobile response team for face-to-face assessment when needed.
At Centerstone, a clinician follows up within 24 hours of the first contact.
Select services also offer a mix of telephone, text and in-person follow-up for up to a full year.
3) Strategic Crisis Care Works
Through a grant provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, 199 individuals who had experienced a suicide-related event were enrolled via hotlines or emergency departments into the Centerstone Crisis High-Risk Follow-Up Project.
Participants received follow-up calls, safety planning and referral support at one, seven, 14 and 30 days after their incident. The resulting rate of return to emergency rooms was eight percent – drastically lower than the estimated national average of 31.5 percent.
During this pilot program, there were zero occurrences of suicide deaths among the enrollees.
Indeed, crisis hotlines and care systems bring increased attention and government funding. They save overall costs and, far more importantly, save precious lives.
A client of the National Suicide Prevention Line, referring to the person who took the call, said, “If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.”
That’s why we’re all here.
If you or someone close is struggling with suicidal ideation, please call Centerstone’s 24-Hour Crisis Hotline now at (800) 681-7444.
About the author
Jennifer Armstrong serves as Vice President of Customer Engagement Operations for Centerstone, providing oversight for Customer Engagement Initiatives, including development and implementation of the Customer Engagement Center, a single point of access for all Centerstone consumers and new inquiries. Additionally, she is responsible for providing leadership and day-to-day management of a multi-site engagement operation for Centerstone, including but not limited to customer satisfaction, enhancing the customer experience, and improving the customer journey throughout the engagement process.
Armstrong received a BS in Social Work from the University of Tennessee at Martin, and an MS in Clinical Social Work from the University of Tennessee at Memphis. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Service Provider Designation.
Armstrong currently serves on the Standards, Training and Practice Committee for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. She is also Board Member for the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors. In 2016, the Nashville Business Journal named Armstrong a“Healthcare Hero.”