It’s a moment that will always remind Donna Bliss why she does what she does.
Bliss, the director of community outreach and development with VIA LINK, was at a fair handing out information packets about the service when she came across a curious woman who wanted to know more about VIA LINK’s Crisis Teen Text Line. Bliss told her the line, in which teenagers facing crisis, serious anxiety or depression could reach out via text and speak to a counselor 24 hours a day.
The other woman had a grandchild who was going through turmoil, and her reaction has stuck with Bliss to this day.
“’Oh my gosh,’” Bliss recalled her saying, “’I prayed this morning. I said, ‘I don’t know how to help my grandchild. I don’t know how to reach him. This is the answer.’ I was so moved. She left knowing with a little more confidence that she had something to provide as a lifeline. It told me what we do every day means something on a greater scale.”
VIA LINK is an information source and offers connection to vital sources in the Greater New Orleans area, enabling people to find information and resources to help themselves and others through information, referral and crisis intervention.
In 1989, VIA launched a free, 24-hour telephone counseling service for the region providing crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and information and referral for a multitude of needs, known as the Cope Line. The organization’s name was changed to VIA LINK in 1999, emphasizing its role as a link to vital services. In 2001,VIA LINK implemented the 2-1-1 abbreviated dialing code to make it easier to reach the call center.
The Crisis Teen Text Line is just one service provided by VIA LINK. The Teen Text Line is primarily set to serve youth ages 13-22 experiencing emotional distress. Counselors are able to provide emotional support, information and/or referrals to community resources, and crisis intervention as needed.
VIA LINK’s call center provides aid for suicide intervention and mental health counseling for people of all ages. While many people might see a counselor or have a means to seek help already, Bliss notes crisis can emerge at any time of the day or night and having a phone lifeline open 24 hours a day can make a potentially huge difference.
“Even if they have a professional counselor already, you can’t reach out to them at 2 a.m.,” Bliss said. “They may not be able to set up an appointment the very next day, and time can be a factor. They can call (the call center) and reach out to a licensed counselor who can detect when a person may be in crisis and deescalate that individual.”
Simply knowing someone is there to answer a call for help can provide a major dose of comfort.
“Anytime someone starts to think, ‘I can’t go on another day,’ that service is there for them. There’s someone out there who will listen,” Bliss said.
The VIA LINK service is free of charge, thanks in large part to its partnership with United Way, Bliss noted.
Through VIA LINK’s 211 service, it is able to provide disaster related resources as well, for example in the case of the mass flooding across the state over the summer.
To reach the VIA LINK Contact Center for Emotional Support, dial 1-800-273-TALK, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). VIA LINK handle calls for the following area codes – 504, 985, and 337. VIA LINK is one of two accredited crisis centers in Louisiana that are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.
VIA LINK’s Community Resource Directory provides a comprehensive, up-to-date listing of health and human services. One can access this information by simply dialing 2-1-1 (or 1-800-749-2673). For more information, visit vialink.org.