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South Dakota mental health helpline hails surge in calls

June 10, 2019
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In a Thursday, June 6, 2019 photo, Audrey Nordine, Black Hills Program Coordinator for the Helpline Center, works in her office in Rapid City. (Adam Fondren/Rapid City Journal via AP)

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A mental health helpline in South Dakota saw a significant surge in calls last year, and its coordinator is hailing the increase a step in the right direction.

Helpline Center saw a 40% increase from 2017 to 2018 in suicide-related calls from Black Hills residents, according to the center’s 2018 annual report, the Rapid City Journal reported . The increase brought last year’s suicide-related calls from Black Hills residents to 460.

“It’s a good thing,” said Audrey Nordine, Black Hills program coordinator with Helpline Center. “Those people (making suicide-related calls) have always existed but now people are reaching out more than ever for themselves and their loved ones.”

The Helpline Center also answers the statewide suicide crisis line. It received a total 2,334 suicide-related calls in 2018, up from 1,831 in 2017.

“I think it’s breaking down the stigma of mental health and suicide. More people are talking about it,” Nordine said.

Helpline Center operates the 211 information line as a free service available to 70% of South Dakota residents, including those in Pennington, Butte, Fall River, Custer, Lawrence and Meade counties. The center’s staff answers calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Majority of the calls from Black Hills residents in 2018 were related to assistance with basic needs like food, housing, transportation and utilities. Only 13.8% of calls were strictly related to mental health and addiction.

“That’s part of our uniqueness,” Nordine noted. “We’re taking those crisis calls. They’re (not just) related to providing information.

“We’re helping people get connected with counseling and support groups.”

The report found females placed more calls than males and transgender people.

The helpline can also respond to text messages.

People can text 898211 with their respective ZIP code, which would lead a call specialist to text back and ask how they can help.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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