Mental health officials in Vermont are spreading the word about a text messaging service aimed to support people experiencing mental health crises.
The Crisis Text Line is available nationally. In Vermont, users text "VT" to the number 741741 to open a free, confidential chat with a trained volunteer.
The service is available 24/7, said Dr. Jay Batra of the Vermont Department of Mental Health.
Batra explained the text line handles many types of mental health crises, from depression to anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The point of the chats, Batra said, is to help people find calm and develop an action plan to feel better. The text chats are not a replacement for therapy, and are more about getting people help quickly in moments of crisis, the Department of Mental Health noted.
"Suicide is preventable," Dr. Batra said, discussing one reason someone may reach out to the Crisis Text Line.
Batra said Vermont has the highest rate of suicide deaths in New England, at nearly 18 per 100,000 people. The average national rate of suicide deaths per 100,000 people is 13, Batra added.
Vermont's suicide rate means more people die by suicide than in motor vehicle crashes, according to state public safety figures.
"When people feel that hopeless, they feel like it's a completely dark hole they can't come out of," Batra told necn, describing suicidal thoughts. "We talk to dozens, if not hundreds, of people who have survived thoughts of suicide who come out and tell us as dark as it felt in the moment, there's always light at the end of the tunnel."
For people seeking help with suicidal thoughts who want to make a voice call, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Cathy Lamberton, whose son, Logan, died by suicide nearly seven years ago, said she is glad to know the new text service is available, among other counseling services and suicide prevention work in Vermont.
"Any tool you can find to get people talking about to connect, I'm all for it," Lamberton said. "It's definitely a good thing."
Lamberton said she has found ways to recognize grief from her son’s death while not getting bogged down by it, as she promotes healthy approaches to healing.
Lamberton now is working to help others through workshops on stress management and healing from grief or trauma. Her next workshop is on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon at Hotel Vermont in Burlington.
For more information on that seminar, click here.
At Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Burlington, clinical director Leslie Ferrer said the holidays often bring an increase in calls for counseling, due in part to added family or financial stress.
"It's definitely a time when if you have mental health issues, or you don't, stress definitely goes up and there's a lot of emotions," Ferrer said.
For more on mental health resources available in Vermont, visit this state website.