Our Suicide/Crisis Hotline Workers
This past September, we joined organizations across the U.S. to mark National Suicide Prevention Month. In light of this, we want to recognize some true Help Network Heroes: the many dedicated, compassionate individuals who take the calls that come into our Suicide/Crisis Hotline. Here are two of their stories.
Jen has been with us for seven years, while Michelle joined the staff 20 years ago. Like all of their fellow call-takers, they have gone through extensive training to learn how to handle a variety of situations callers may present. This training emphasizes steps that are recognized as the most effective in guiding the caller to a resolution. Among them are:
- Identifying the caller’s FEELINGS, which are more important than facts.
- Summarizing the problem together with the caller so you both agree on it.
- Exploring options for solving the problem together.
- Empowering callers to choose a plan of action.
- Helping the caller to gain a different perspective on the crisis he or she is facing, and working with them to resolve that crisis.
Michelle says some callers will spill out all that is troubling them immediately, while others have to be drawn out. Helpers work to build rapport with callers by asking open-ended questions and picking up cues from the caller’s responses, including his or her tone of voice.
Asked to reflect on a particularly memorable call from the hundreds taken over the years, Jen remembers a call from a young mother who was contemplating taking both her and her child’s life. It was clear that immediate intervention was needed, so Jen contacted the police, who arrived while the call was still in progress and took the mother to the hospital. While follow-up with callers is not always possible, Jen in this case was able to contact the caller within a week to ensure she was getting the help she needed.
Michelle still remembers the very first call she took, from a man who was very stressed and was speaking erratically. She spoke to him calmly and managed to calm him down as time went on. The man realized that he needed to go to the hospital, and an ambulance was sent. In the end, the man recognized he needed help and was glad that he had called.
Understandably, Jen says the work can sometimes be stressful for the call-takers themselves, but co-workers within the call center provide support to each other and talk things out together after particularly difficult calls.
We offer grateful thanks to all of the helpers in our Call Center who have dedicated themselves to this vitally important work.