VANCOUVER, Wash. — Deeply concerned by the increase in suicides locally, three Clark County churches are jointly establishing a three-part outreach to combat this trend, including a new 24-hour telephone “helpline.”
“These tragedies must stop,” said Michael Miller, a counselor to teens in Vancouver for 38 years who also is serving as interim pastor of Living Hope Church. “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
According to Vancouver police, the West Precinct alone reseponds to two or three suicide-related calls per shift, or more than 120 calls per month. The problem is especially acute among teens, whose suicide rate has jumped more than 70 percent nationally in 10 years. Bullying, depression, poor self-image, parental neglect and hormones all have been cited as factors.
A new ministry called 10ThousandN2 has as its goal to witness hope in Christ to 10,000 Clark County youth over two years. Joining Miller are Pastor Rob Lloyd of Freedom Community Church, who is also head of the Responder’s Resource Center that trains area chaplains; and Pastor Jamie Kingsbury of Lord’s Gym.
The three aspects of the program are:
•Relaunching a decades-old ministry previously titled The Fight of Your Life that witnessed to middle and high school ages with an entertaining program by Miller in a rented school gym. It is renamed Dare to Live and is more geared to prevent suicide in these same groups.
•Establishment of six youth centers, to be open Friday and Saturday evenings and to be staffed with youth leaders and youth pastors from the three churches and any other churches interested. These will be alcohol- and drug-free, membership-based centers with any teen willing to sign a behavior contract. The centers will have games, live music, a coffee bar, a food court and abundant fellowship, all designed to disciple the teens. Lord’s Gym at 2410 Grand Blvd. will be the first center, and the second will be near Fort Vancouver High.
•A 24-hour local phone line staffed by trained volunteers, geared primarily for teens but available to talk to whoever calls. It will be called Hopeline Clark County. “Why not a ‘hotline’ or a ‘crisis line,’ or a ‘helpline’? These resources already exist in Clark County,” said Dr. Ray Brady, a member of the outreach’s advisory committee. “Each of us know that the only answer to preventing a teen’s suicide is to provide that teen with hope.”
Each phone volunteer — a committed Christian from a local church — will take a 32-hour training course and will be backed up by supervisors and clinic directors. Each will serve one day per month at home on their cellphone. Currently 15 volunteers are trained but another 60 are needed to launch the line. A critical part of the training is a 13-hour International Critical Incident Stress Foundation certification course May 11 and 12 that must be taken live. The remaining 18 hours can be taken via video.
For more information, phone 360-687-3322 or go to hopelineclarkcounty.org and www.commonground/daretolive