How new messaging system could help save lives of missing people in crisis

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People who are reported missing and potentially in crisis will now receive a text message from a Samaritan offering support within minutes.

Through the Suicide Risk Text Safe initiative, which is set up through Northumbria Police and charities Missing People and The Samaritans a text message will be sent to missing adults at risk of serious harm or suicide.

Police officers responding to a report of a missing adult will notify Missing People who can then send an independent message offering them advice and support from a Samaritan.

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The service has already proved vital in one case with a returned missing person praising the scheme.

Detective Chief Inspector Lynne CollegeDetective Chief Inspector Lynne College
Detective Chief Inspector Lynne College

They said: “A couple of weeks ago, I had an acute mental health episode, although this had been building over some time. I work for the NHS, and the stress of the job plus other issues over the past few years, including bereavement, everything became too much.

"I ended up ringing my boss to tell her I was going to end it and basically went missing. I had only been missing a short while but within that time I had a message come through on my phone from yourselves offering support and a call from the Samaritans.

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"I can’t believe how quickly this had come through and I think it is an amazing charity, so thank you."

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The initiative is being rolled out as part of Mental Health Awareness Week which aims to raise awareness of mental health, breakdown the stigma associated with mental health and urge people to talk openly about it.

Detective Chief Inspector Lynne College, of the force's Safeguarding unit, believes the service will help save lives and provide the professional support people in crisis need.

She said: "Already we are seeing the benefits of this system and I have no doubt it will help save lives. We work tirelessly to help those who are vulnerable in our society but we can't do it alone. It is with the support of our fantastic partnerships with the likes of Missing People, that we are able to provide a full service of wrap around care from the right professionals.

"Often in a mental health crisis people don't want to be contacted by police and this is an excellent way of being able to reach out to those in need."

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Beth Hodges, of charity Missing People, added: "Our partnership with the Samaritans has enabled us to reach many missing people at a point of crisis in their lives.

“We strongly believe that these are essential and lifesaving conversations and are pleased to be working in partnership with Northumbria Police to support those who need us most."

The force also has a dedicated Street Triage team which is a partnership with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust to help those suffering a mental health crisis get the most professional care for their needs.Anyone in crisis should contact the relevant 24/7 helpline below.

For the Northumberland and North Tyneside Universal Crisis Team call 0800 6522 861

(Those who are Deaf/hard of hearing can text 07887625277)

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For Sunderland and South Tyneside Universal Crisis Team call 0800 6522 867

(Those who are Deaf/hard of hearing can text 07889036280)

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