Western Offers Crisis Hotline

Joshua Defibaugh

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Western Illinois University began offering its own crisis hotline in the spring of 1971 after Macomb was recognized as having one of the highest suicide rates in the state.

 The WIU Student Hotline is available for students to call seven days a week and while school is in session. Services are available Sunday through Thursday, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Friday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

 On the hotline’s website, it reads that the “Hotline is a service provided for both the Western Illinios University and Macomb communities. Our staff consists of paraprofessional student volunteers. We are trained to provide callers with information, referrals, and telephone counseling. We provide empathy and understanding while helping callers resolve their concerns.”

 “We’re just here to help with any issues that people have whether they’re big or small,” said Rachel Conrad, co-director of the hotline. “Any kind of problem, people can feel free to call us.”

 The hotline provides an essential service for students experiencing any problem, whether it be school, friends, family or sexual assault.

 “We occasionally have callers who call after having been sexually abused on campus,” Conrad said. “They are kind of in a point of, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ So we walk them through their options and whom they can talk to and where they can find some help to feel safe again. That’s one of our big problems that people call in for.”

 Sarah Nielsen, the head team leader for the hotline said that they also help students with their classes or their grades. Nielsen said they refer the students to tutors and help them contact their teachers.

 “For (some) problems, sometimes it’s just a breakup with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or just a lot stress in their life and they just need someone to listen, really,” Nielsen said. “And that’s just what we do. We’re there to listen.”

 The hotline will get busier towards midterms and finals Conrad said.

 “Usually around midterms and finals or right at the beginning of the semester, we get a lot of calls just because people are nervous about the new semester or exams coming up,” Conrad said.

 While callers have the option to stay anonymous, Nielsen and Conrad, as well as their team of student volunteers, keep logs on those who call so volunteers are informed about potential situations if the caller has reached out before.

 “If someone were to call again, all of our volunteers are aware of the situation that’s going on with that individual,” Conrad said. “It’s up to them if they want to disclose their name or anything like that.”

 Western also offers a texting line. Students can send a text message that’s delivered to the crisis hotline, and a student volunteer receives it via computer. This service, as well as the idea of a text message based crisis intervention service, is relatively new to Western.

 “We definitely have more callers,” Conrad said. She also explained that not every student at Western is aware of the text message service the hotline offers. Nielsen said they are currently trying to spread the word about the alternative method of reaching out.

 There is also a national crisis text service called the Crisis Text Line. Anyone with a mobile phone can send a message to the number 741-741. Within minutes, a crisis counselor will respond. The Crisis Text Line was founded by Nancy Lublin, the CEO of DoSomething.org, which is a website dedicated to social change in youth.

 “I think that with our generation a lot more people are comfortable with texting about their problems rather than calling about it,” Conrad said. “Calling about it brings up emotions and sometimes people can’t get it out. Actually saying what their problem is or what happened to them or talking about it is really hard. I feel that texting about it benefits us.”

 The hotline is open Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. at 309-298-3211 for students with problems.