‘There’s nobody to lie to’: Vet shares success story of texting suicide prevention hotline
KAUKANA, Wis. — The Center for Suicide Awareness in Kaukana is celebrating four years of saving lives. On Oct. 10,the center celebrated its anniversary. While the center itself is helping decrease the number of suicides across the state of Wisconsin, one method is providing a unique way for that to happen.
“You text the word Hopeline to 741741 and then send,” said Barb Bigalke, founder of the center. “It doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t take away from your minute plan, so it really is a free service.”
Hopeline is a 24/7 emotional support crisis text line.
“If we could save one person’s life, mission accomplished,” Bigalke said.
Bigalke said that text line receives more than 400 text messages per month. Since its launch in 2016, the center has helped save around 100 lives.
“I remember literally my hand shaking when I signed on that dotted line saying I was going to do this,” Bigalke said. “There is not only a sense of pride, but a sense of, ‘You know what, this is exactly why I signed on that dotted line.'”
Bigalke said this line of work is more than rewarding, but a lot of research was done to ensure this would work.
“People that were either attempting suicide or died by suicide, were texting, but what they were doing is they were texting their friends,” Bigalke said.
Bigalke’s research found that those who were having thoughts of suicide and texting their friends weren’t getting the proper support they needed. Mike Crum knows this all too well.
“A lot of people tend to be like, ‘Oh, everything is going to be all right, and you’ll get through this.’ But sometimes, you need to dig a little deeper than that,” Crum said.
Crum is a Marine Corps veteran who struggled with negative thoughts after his service. Crum said he had a tough time with relationships, jobs and other mental and emotional factors in his life. He said he needed a complete stranger to talk to in order to finally be honest with himself. He texted the Hopeline.
“You don’t have to lie to anybody,” Crum said. “I think sometimes we tend to lie to ourselves. There’s nobody to lie to. There’s nobody to give a false sense of everything is OK. So in that moment I was like, ‘OK I need to be truthful with myself.’ Through texting, all of that stigma and and those barriers are kind of taken away.”
Crum said you don’t have to be actively suicidal to use the Hopeline. He said you could just be having a bad day, in a state of depression or a myriad of other reasons. He said the Hopeline is for anyone to use to actively prevent anything bad from happening in the future.
“Whether you’re 10 years old or 60 years old or a veteran or LGBTQ, we’ve got a myriad of different ages, races, populations to text it and say, ‘I need help.'”
Crum said it helped him get through one of the most difficult times of his life. It worked so well for him, he found his own purpose out of it. Crum now works at the Center for Suicide Awareness helping save others’ lives.
Crum and Bigalke said they are looking for a location to work out of in Madison. While they have not yet released a tentative date of when that may happen, they are excited to spread their services and work out of a place where they can reach a bigger population.
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