JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The weight of the pandemic and violence in the Magnolia State has some students and parents within Jackson’s Public School District utilizing a free resource available to anyone.
It’s called CONTACT The Crisis Line and the organization has helped people in Jackson for the last 50 years.
A non-profit named Working Together Jackson partnered with CONTACT and launched the ‘Jackson Scholars Mental Health Warmline’ in December 2020 for JPS students and families.
CONTACT the Crisis Line is an interfaith ministry founded in 1971 by a group of mental health professionals and ministers who shared the conviction that no one should have to face life’s challenges without a caring, objective listener.
Recognized by the governor for their crisis intervention, the company has trained specialists to provide “compassionate, non-judgmental help for anyone in need of emotional support.”
“It’s OK to not be OK,” Executive Director Brenda Patterson said. “It’s not OK to stay that way.”
While she leads the organization, there’s a reason Brenda Patterson is so passionate about helping people.
“I lost my father to suicide many years ago,” Patterson said. “When it becomes personal it is no longer just important statistics.”
Patterson said over 111 students and parents have called into the ministry since last December, but most of them have been parents. The number might be much higher if not for a stigma about getting help and more awareness that the resource is even available, Patterson said.
“I think it’s a little of both,” she said. “We want to stress that help is available and it’s okay to talk things out with someone.”
Calls into the warmline include students and parents with feelings of lonesomeness, isolation, stress over technology from virtual learning, and parents trying to balance work obligations and supporting their child’s learning at home.
“We’ve gotten calls from students in regard to bullying online, we’ve gotten calls from students waking up feeling anxious and several calls from families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19,” Patterson says.
Oftentimes, Patterson says CONTACT receives third-party calls from students or parents who are concerned about a friend or family member and Patterson said they help the caller understand how to actively listen and how to ask questions to understand their loved one’s state of mind.
The interfaith ministry has also had several third-party calls related to suicide where crisis intervention counselors have offered more immediate help.
The agency says you can remain anonymous and talk to counselors about anything.
“The first step is to affirm that it’s OK to have any feelings you’re having,” Patterson added.
The warmline is open from Noon to 8 p.m. daily, but CONTACT is available 24/7 to anyone.
In addition to helping JPS students, the organization also accepts after-hours calls for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, Mississippi Aids hotline, and a state partner for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which means if you reach out for nationwide help from a Jackson area code, you will reach CONTACT.
You can call the JPS warmline at (601) 713-4358 or call the CONTACT helpline any time at (601) 713-HELP (4357).
Working Together Jackson is made up of local ministers, educators, and other stakeholders in Jackson and surrounding areas to help meet the needs of the community.