If you or someone you know are in crisis, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached anytime by calling 988.
BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is using its “be nice.” program to partner with the Crisis Text Line in hopes of making the tool more accessible for people across the region.
If someone is feeling suicidal or dealing with a mental health crisis, they can text “nice” to 741741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor for free help.
“It’s an easy way to start a conversation with someone,” be nice. founder Christy Buck told News 8. “We want people to use that resource, something that is available to them to get that conversation going. And it has proven to reduce suicides when people utilize these.”
The partnership will also provide be nice. with key demographic information about specific concerns or stressors that are triggering current mental health crises. Be nice. will not receive any personal data or information.
“We’re going to be able to capture some good information for ourselves,” Buck said. “That’s important to us to know that people are utilizing what we are teaching and what we’re giving instruction on. What can we dive into a little bit more?”
There are several mental health resources available for people across West Michigan, including the Crisis Text Line and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. But unlike an appointment with a therapist or even a phone call, a text message provides an additional layer of anonymity, which may encourage more people open up and get help.
“One of the biggest barriers to treatment is (people wondering,) ‘What people will think about me if I told somebody I actually was thinking about killing myself?’” Buck said. “And the general population doesn’t know how to respond when somebody says that, right? It could be that they avoid the conversation, they walk away. So it is important that me as a person, as a friend, as a relative, as a peer, as a mother, as a grandmother, whatever my role is, I want to make sure that people have someone to talk to, someone to reach out to.”
The partnership with the Crisis Text Line is the latest in a series of steps for the “be nice” program expanding outside of Michigan. In addition to the work be nice. does with Michigan schools and athletic programs, it also has courses implemented in several school systems in Houston, Texas, and is now working with high school athletic associations in Alaska and Virginia.
Buck said the decision to focus on athletic programs happened naturally. Several premier athletes have made international headlines in recent years by discussing their mental health struggles, including Olympians Simone Biles and Michael Phelps and tennis star Naomi Osaka. Just last week, Detroit Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows stepped away from the team to get help for his anxiety disorder.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” Buck said. “We found a foot in the door with (our partnership with the Michigan High School Athletic Association). And just like our be nice. school programs, that can be implemented nationally, too. But we decided that, you know what, we have a specific audience. The be nice. school program is gargantuan. You have 20 school districts in Kent County. Multiply that by every county throughout the United States. This sports program is kind of easy because we have control of it. There are only 49 other states.”
The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan also made a point of announcing the new partnership in the spring. Buck wanted to bring mental health discussions back to the forefront following the winter because there is often a rise in suicide rates in the spring.
“(Winter) is a time of year where many of us have been struggling. It’s kind of socially acceptable (to isolate),” she said. “People who are struggling, they may feel even worse during those months and have not received help. … And there’s stigma related to this. Suddenly, I find I’m isolating myself more. And these are the times where everybody is out and about.”
Buck says there is new research that has shown ties of inflammation in the brain with depression. Something that also triggers inflammation in the brain? Allergies. There is no direct tie to allergies causing more severe depression or suicidal thoughts, but it could add to the mental health stressors that are already afflicting a person.
“Nine times out of 10, when someone dies by suicide, they are struggling with a mental health disorder. The biggest being depression in combination with another mental health disorder and then substance use,” Buck said.