Stress is a common part of life, but overwhelming stress can make life seem unbearable. The University of Sioux Falls and Augustana are the first South Dakota colleges to have access to Text4Hope, an anonymous helpline service for students to contact when stress becomes overwhelming.
Suicide and Crisis Support Director Lori Montis spoke to the USF Resident Assistants on Sunday night about Text4Hope, along with stress, its triggers, and how to successfully deal with it.
Montis said that it’s important to watch for unmanaged stress symptoms: increased heart rate and blood pressure, feeling tense, irritable, fatigued, or depressed, lack of interest and ability to concentrate, avoidance behaviors (abuse of drugs, alcohol, tobacco), low morale, anger, deteriorating relationships, and poor communication.
“We know when you have too much stress, or your plate gets too full, stress can be kind of immobilizing or paralyzing,” Montis said in her talk.
In her presentation, Montis gave staggering statistics. The lifetime rate of major depression is between 15 and 20 percent, ten times higher than it was in the 1950s and 1960s, and 71 percent of today’s college students are more anxious than those from the 1970s. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 34.
Text4Hope has been in the workings for a year and finally received funding from the federal government to South Dakota last October.
Suicide Prevention Coordinator Stephanie Moore is a certified counselor with Text4Hope and spoke at the Gospel According to Josh event on Monday night in Z-hall.
“It doesn’t have to be an emergency,” Moore said. “The point of this is to really have somebody to talk to where it’s not so intimidating one-on-one.”
A similar service has proved successful among high schools over the past three years, and a need arose to appeal to the college population as well.
“The way you interact with a teenager is way different than a young adult in college,” Moore said. “You’re moving out of your hometown, trying to figure out how to manage your own time. There’s just a different approach our crisis workers will take with young adults.”
Although the non-profit organization is not affiliated with any religion, Moore said that Text4Hope counselors are very receptive of whatever faith the student identifies with and are knowledgable in church resources in the area to refer students to.
“We embrace that spirituality part,” Moore said. “We’re just there to listen and support you and to empower you to believe what you believe and to feel good about that.”
USF students can text their school identifier “USF” to the number 839863 or call 800-273-8255 to talk to a trained counselor. Helpline support and crisis workers are in confidential call centers and focus on helping students develop coping skills and encourage plans of action to address issues.
“People aren’t always comfortable talking face-to-face with somebody. Sometimes that’s pretty hard when you’re dealing with some kind of overwhelming issue,” Montis said.
Both Montis and Moore said that they hope that this program is successful and that it spreads beyond South Dakota.
“I really hope to see students utilize this,” Moore said. “Even students who may not think they’re in crisis, use it before it becomes a crisis.”