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.
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.
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.