By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A text message service is helping prevent suicides right here in Minnesota.

The service is called TXT4Life. It allows Minnesotans to receive counseling by texting to a crisis center. When it started in 2011 few people knew about the service, but now the counseling services via text message are on track to help 10,000 Minnesotans in 2015.

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“It’s been fabulous,” Canvas Health Crisis Connection Manager Laura Weber said. “It’s really working.”

At the Txt4Life headquarters inside Canvas Health in Richfield, counselors and trained volunteers can manage up to 500 text conversations using special software.

The program was originally only available in northeastern Minnesota, but now reaches all counties thanks to additional state funding.

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“To be able to take this statewide is simply a wonderful thing to watch,” Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said.

The center has seen an uptick in texts in the last few weeks ahead of the new school year. The most common age group is teens, ages 14 to 15.

“Kids feel comfortable pulling out their cell phone, like they already do, and just talking with someone,” Weber said.

In 2013, 880 Minnesotans died of suicide, which is up 30 percent from 660 in 2012. It is the ninth leading cause of all deaths in Minnesota.

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This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. To access the crisis counseling and connections via text message, text “Life” to 61222.

Kate Raddatz