After Logging 10,000 Hours at a Crisis Call Center, Here’s What I’ve Learned

As published in Oprah Magazine : https://www.oprahmag.com/life/health/a25416643/what-a-suicide-crisis-counselor-does/

I have worked at a 2-1-1 Big Bend, a crisis center and information referral line in Tallahassee, Florida, since 2000.

I’ve logged about 10,000 hours on hotlines, but I still never know what to expect when the phone rings. My goal, however, is always the same: Make an authentic connection.

My goal is always the same: Make an authentic connection.

But there are instances where the first thing someone says is, “I’ve got a gun. I’m going to kill myself. What are you going to do to make me change my mind?”

That situation needs a different tactic. I might say, “It sounds like you’ve made up your mind, but I just picked up the phone. What about giving me a moment to hear what you’re going through?”

The holidays aren’t busier than any other time of year, but we do see spikes after high-profile suicides or a large crisis. When Hurricane Michael hit Florida in October, we had a 400 percent increase in calls.

Normally, we don’t hang up until a positive outcome, like a caller’s promise not to harm himself.

And I don’t spend every second of my day trying to keep someone in crisis alive. We have “active” callers who are lonely and just want to connect with another human being. We also hear from people looking for resources or food.

That’s how I came to the hotline. Twenty-five years ago, I was in a diving accident that broke my neck. I called for information about transportation, but the young woman who answered just knew I needed to talk. We had an hour-long conversation, and she helped me get back on my feet, so to speak. This work still fills my cup all the time.

United Way and Nest Provide Energy Assistance With ‘Keep Your Neighbors Warm’

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—United Way Worldwide announced today that it is partnering with Nest, a leading manufacturer of smart home products – including thermostats – for “Keep your Neighbors Warm,” a campaign that supports United Way’s efforts to provide energy assistance through the critical 2-1-1 service in communities nationwide.

“Keep Your Neighbors Warm” is part of Nest’s Power Project, a platform backed by Google’s sustainability initiatives that is aimed at helping low to moderate income customers dealing with high-energy costs. Those who wish to donate should visit Nest.com/powerproject, or text WARMTH to 40403.

Energy assistance ranks as the second highest request nationally made to the 2-1-1 network with 1.7 million calls in 2017 from people across the United States seeking help paying their utility or energy bills.

Donations to the campaign will provide capacity-building support for the 2-1-1 network, including investments in artificial intelligence, texting hotlines, and website enhancements, to serve more people in need of energy assistance.

“We are grateful to Google, Nest and the ‘Keep Your Neighbors Warm’ campaign for raising awareness about – and supporting solutions for – a crisis facing millions of households every year,” said Rachel Krausman, Senior Director of 2-1-1, United Way Worldwide. “The campaign gives people a vehicle to support United Way and 2-1-1, so we can continue the fight for the health – and warmth – of the communities that we serve.”

About 2-1-1
2-1-1 is a free, confidential service that connects individuals to resources and services in their local communities by phone, text and on the web. In 2017, the 2-1-1 network responded to more than 14 million requests for assistance. The service is available to 94 percent of the U.S. population, including Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and is also available in most of Canada. Individuals in need or who are looking for information for someone else can dial 211 from a cell phone or landline to reach a community specialist or visit 211.org for more contact options.