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Creating awareness

Officials hope signs will help spread the word about mental health crisis line

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship Daniel Hurt, a deacon with St. Thomas Aquinas Church, and Patti Treibel-Leeds, executive director of Hamilton County Central Iowa Community Services, look over the new 24-hour Crisis Line signs that will soon be placed around the community. A donation from St. Thomas’ social justice committee helped make the sign program possible.

These are challenging times for the United States. With a pandemic, social isolation and civil unrest unfolding in every corner of the nation, the stress and fear can be overpowering. Many don’t know where to turn to find comfort, support and peace of mind.

But help is available as close as the telephone.

Patti Treibel-Leeds, executive director of Hamilton County Central Iowa Community Services, said her office is working to get the word out about a 24-hour crisis and mobile response line, 855-581-8111, answered through YourLifeIowa.org. Treibel-Leeds said the crisis line is available to anyone, regardless of what crisis they may be facing. Many times, the caller just needs someone to talk to, to help them work through the crisis at that moment.

If the caller needs more assistance than can be given via telephone, a mobile crisis team can be dispatched to help them find the resources they need. If the mobile team is dispatched, they will come to the caller’s home or meet them in a park or wherever they are. Or if the person is feeling suicidal, the team members can take them to the hospital.

“They do not ask your income. It doesn’t matter if you’re the wealthiest person in town or the poorest, they will come meet with you and a case manager will follow you for the next 30 days to help you get the resources you need,” she said. There are always two crisis team members on duty.

And the crisis services are helping, according to Treibel-Leeds.

“We’re trying to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and I think we’re seeking that,” she said.

Treibel-Leeds had a call from the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Social Justice Committee who offered a $600 donation to help get the word out, to perhaps give someone some peace of mind or even save a life.

That donation could not have come at a better time. There have been about six completed suicides in Hamilton County since last fall, according to Treibel-Leeds.

“That’s a lot,” she said.

St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Deacon Daniel Hurt said the Social Justice Committee had looked at several different opportunities to help the community.

“But mental health is such a huge issue within the community. We see that with some of the people who come in our doors. We see that with some of the people who need help. And now we’re in this time of COVID-19. Suicide awareness is so important now,” Hurt said.

“Not everything leads to suicide, but there are a lot of people out there who are struggling,” he said. “We just felt that mental health and suicide are two huge issues that we need to reach out and do our part.”

The donation from St. Thomas will help get the word out that help is available in a very visual way, Treibel-Leeds said. Yard signs and banners will soon be placed around the community. Treibel-Leeds said one will be placed at St. Thomas, the community schools, the fairgrounds, the courthouse, and other locations. The signs feature the crisis line phone number, the YourLifeIowa website address and other information.

“People can place the yard signs in their yards for up to 120 days,” she said. “After that time, we can come get the signs and move them on to a new location.”

The signs and banners were designed by Designer Graphics in Webster City.

“The banners may require a permit from the city to be displayed,” she said. “If that’s the case, my office can offset those costs.”

Treibel-Leeds said she thinks the visual reminders of the crisis line might make a difference.

“I wanted to do something in print that were strategically placed around the community,” she said. “We hope that people will call our office if they would like to post a sign. We can take their name and address and we will come out and place it on their lawn.”

To request a yard sign, call 832-9550.

Hurt said he believed that the signs would be a highly visible way to get the message out.

“If the number was on a small business card, people might pick it up at church or somewhere else, stick in their pocket and then forget about it,” he said. “People are going to see these signs.”

Even though May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Treibel-Leeds says mental health should be talked about every month.

“You can not get the word out there enough,” she said. “This is truly something we’ve needed for a long time.”

Hurt agreed and said St. Thomas was glad to be involved in the important project.

“Everyone is beautiful, and everyone has value and a role to play in society,” Hurt said. “We need to be sure we help anybody who is struggling.”

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