A 15-year-old sat quietly listening to a talk on suicide prevention when she realized the presenters were describing people exactly like her.
As the presentation continued, she quickly got up and ran to a bathroom stall, where she called 2-1-1. This lifeline gave her what she needed most: someone to listen.
In an interview, Lisa Harper, director of development for HeartLine, which responds to 2-1-1 calls, answered questions about the nonprofit’s call lines and programs that connect Oklahomans to vital communication and resources.
Q:What is the history of HeartLine?
A:HeartLine was founded in 1971, Harper said.
“We were actually founded as Contact Oklahoma. The way we really came to be was a group of community members and faith-based members all came together and wanted to found a place where people could call and just receive compassionate listening.”
Harper said the 2-1-1 coverage area is split. HeartLine answers for counties in central and western Oklahoma, and the Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa answers it for those in eastern Oklahoma.
Q:What is HeartLine’s mission?
A:“We can sometimes be a difficult agency to understand because we do have so many services, which is why we have a pretty broad mission statement that tries to encompass the core of what we’re doing,” Harper said.
“Our mission statement hopefully sums up all that we do, which is that we connect Oklahomans to help, hope and information 24 hours a day. Any one of those things they are looking for, whether it’s help or some hope or information on how to connect to a resource, that’s what we’re here for.”
Q:What are some of the services you provide?
A:Harper said HeartLine’s program is split into two areas: help lines and suicide prevention outreach.
The help lines are phone and Web-based services, she said, and (405) 848-CARE was the first help line.
“Anybody who just needed someone to talk to — someone who was there to listen with compassion, without judgment — could call into that line 24 hours a day and receive that listening ear,” Harper said. “That’s the foundation of where we came from, and we’ve just grown in our 43 years of service and added to that core.”
She said 2-1-1 is for information and referral for health and human services.
“We all have basic human needs such as food, clothes, shelter, health care and mental health care. If anyone has trouble filling these needs, they can call 2-1-1, and we will connect them to the right resource,” she said.
The database used to respond to 2-1-1 calls is online, “so, if someone wanted to go to a website and search for resources instead of calling, they can go to our database online,” Harper said.
“1-800-273-TALK and 1-800-SUICIDE are two national suicide prevention lifelines, which we added in 1997. Anyone who is dealing with a suicidal crisis and wants to talk to someone, that’s what that line is there for. Again, like all of our lines, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there’s somebody there to offer compassionate listening and ... to guide them through that crisis.”
Harper said HeartLine also has a chat program in conjunction with the suicide prevention lifelines.
“Especially for teens or younger adults who feel more comfortable chatting than calling on the phone, our chat is available from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday,” she said.
Also available is (800) 522-4700, the Oklahoma Problem Gambling Helpline for people or family members of people who are dealing with gambling issues and related emotional and financial effects.
The other area of HeartLine’s service is suicide prevention outreach, using a program called HELP, or Healthy Education for Life Program, she said.
“The program goes to middle schools, high schools and any youth-serving organization and presents information on the warning signs of suicide and how to get help. With that program, we see around 5,000 students a year,” Harper said.
“We answer the ReachOut help line in partnership with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. It’s a line for mental health and substance abuse issues. So, people dealing with either of those can call the ReachOut help line.”
Q:How is HeartLine benefiting Oklahoma as a whole?
A:“I think there are lots of reasons why an agency like HeartLine is really important and beneficial to our community,” Harper said. “Mental illness is one of those things that’s kind of taboo. It’s got this stigma around it that keeps people from talking about it, and it also can keep people from reaching out for help. Stress, negative thoughts and depression really build up over time.