Friday, December 18, 2009

Crisis Hotline is there for you

A phone call can make a difference

Express Staff Writer

The Crisis Hotline has some 16 volunteers to take calls for people in need of help or in a crisis. Photo by David N. Seelig

Although the holidays are intended to celebrate life, family, friends and neighbors, some people have a tough time trying to spread love and cheer.

For those facing troubling times, the Crisis Hotline of the Wood River Valley is there to help. The 24-hour confidential information, referral agency and crisis-intervention service serves Blaine County residents as well as visitors.

"Wintertime and the holidays are a time of year when people's lives tend to unravel," said Executive Director Sher Foster. "Many people in this area are without family or support during the holidays. In addition, this year is also compounded by economic stress."

Foster said fewer hours of sunlight during the winter can exacerbate cases of depression.

Hotline workers field calls related to domestic violence, suicide intervention, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, sexual assault, child abuse and depression. Trained volunteers complete an eight-session (24-hour) course in listening skills and the dynamics of crises. Volunteers receive training in topics that include listening to and helping adolescents, alcoholism and substance abuse, abuse and neglect of children, public assistance resources, codependency, suicide intervention and domestic violence.

The Crisis Hotline defines any situation in which a person doesn't know in what direction to turn for help and needs someone to talk to as a crisis. The service is anonymous, confidential and a safe place for people to call. A crisis can be a defining moment in someone's life or just a need for a referral. For certain people, it can be a situation that seems out of control, when a person is unavailable to help someone else, a feeling of hopelessness or a need to get specific help for any situation and not knowing who to contact.

"People don't have to give their names," Foster said. "The hotline is safe, especially if they have no one else to trust. People will often call us back and thank us for helping them through a very difficult situation."

Foster said that this year the hotline has had an increase in serious calls, especially suicidal calls.

"We have had more suicidal calls in the last year than we have had since the 22 years we have been established," she said. "Serious calls may not include suicidal calls but people in need of serious help."

The hotline has a teen outreach table at Wood River High School and Wood River Middle School to hand out information on an ongoing basis on date abuse. Cards are available with information in English and Spanish about teen dating and abuse as well as dating rights and responsibilities.

"We are encouraging more teens to get in touch with us if they need someone to talk to," Foster said.

In addition, many people are struggling during the current economic crisis, and the Crisis Hotline can provide a safety net of resources to those needing food, shelter, legal, medical or mental health services or to give emotional support.

The Crisis Hotline number is 726-3596. The Crisis Hotline Web site,, is a resource and directory for links and numbers. For details, call 788-0735 or e-mail

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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