I am a crisis line volunteer. I volunteer at a center where we answer a variety of crisis lines, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or NSPL.

I have been a volunteer for a little over a month now. Feel free to ask me anything about how the lines are run, what calls are like, and the training we recieve. I understand that there was an AMA done by a line operator about a month ago, but since Robin Williams' passing has drastically increased our call rate, I figure some people may have new questions, or might not have been able to participate.

As proof, here is my ASIST certification: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.

Edit* Alright, it's nearly three in the morning and I've got to work tomorrow. Keep the questions coming and I will answer all of them tomorrow night when I am able. Thanks for all of your appreciation and questions.

Edit 2* I'm done with work and I can hang around and answer more questions. I can keep this up until the thread gets no more questions.

Edit 3* You guys have all been wonderful. /u/CrisisLineThrowaway has been a delight, answering questions between sessions.

Comments: 229 • Responses: 75  • Date: 

jonforgottheh99 karma

What is your policy on putting callers on hold and why would that happen? A few years ago my friend called in a really bad depression, he was put on hold by the volunteer so he hung up and attempted suicide. I found him in time. For a while I was so angry that his last attempt for help pushed him over the edge, I could never understand why he was put on hold.

Crisis_Connection186 karma

We never put people on hold. Ever.

The only thing we will ever do is put them on mute so that they can't hear what we're saying. We will always tell them this. Something along these lines, "I'm going to talk to my supervisor really quick to see if we can find some resources that can help you out. I am putting you on mute so that you do not have to listen to us, but I will always be able to hear you. Please let me know if you need to talk to me right away." And then hit the button.

We will never hang up or put someone on hold if they are in an emergency. I'm so sorry about what happened to your friend.

jonforgottheh56 karma

Thanks for the reply. Thank you for what you do to help people.

Crisis_Connection47 karma

Thank you for your question. :)

hearshot_kid12 karma

Also a volunteer here, maybe I can chime in too. We unfortunately have to put people on "hold" (it's not like elevator music, I usually just stuff the phone into the chair so the person can't hear) if another call comes on or if we need to talk with a supervisor. At my center, most of the time there is only 1 volunteer there at a time. So if I'm on a call and another call comes in...we really have no choice but to put the phone down. But we try our best to do it in a way that doesn't communicate "you're not important." I'll usually be as upfront and genuine as possible about it, and tell the person I'll get back to their call as soon as I can. It helps if there is already some level of rapport and trust built between myself and be caller, but it doesn't always turn out that way unfortunately. Then I'll do my best to balance my time between the two calls.

I'm really sorry about what happened to your friend.

One thing I'll add too is that we try to obtain phone numbers as early in the conversation as possible just in case something like this happens. If I have to put the phone down while I'm with you and you hang up, I can then call you back to check in.

Babadiboo8 karma

I used to be a hotline volunteer as well and this sounds similar to what the place I volunteered at was like. Mostly it was just a lack of volunteers on certain shifts and, when a bunch of calls came in to our local line (we had a local and the national line), we had to try and get those as well. Now, for instance, if the person I am talking to is obviously and immediately in danger I will stay with them. However, if they are maybe just needing somebody to talk to for a bit, I'll try and put them on hold quickly, switch over to the other call, attempt to assess it really quickly and put the new caller on hold.

It is a really terrible feeling when you see that call on Line 2 disappear after 10 seconds, I know that feeling. It's not that we have any less care for the person, it's just a result of constraints.

All we can do is try our best to make even the smallest difference in the caller's life with what we had. Unfortunately, during the time I volunteered, what we had wasn't enough.

Crisis_Connection3 karma

You guys both make good points. As a volunteer, I myself do not see the call line up, so I do not know if anyone tried to call in and then hung up unless the line actually goes through to a volunteer. The problems you raise are good points though. When there aren't enough volunteers, it can really hinder our efforts, and we may not be able to solve the issues that our callers are having.

BCouto74 karma

This has happened a couple of times to me.... people have called my own personal cellphone thinking it was the local crisis line. I just didn't know what to do. I answer the phone and tell them they have the wrong number. I'm sure that's the last thing a suicidal person wants to hear. I was genuinely scared that me telling someone this might have caused them harm.

A couple of days later, I got a call from someone who worked there saying that their forwarding number was set to mine accidentally. I was just like WHAT?.

Next time this happens, what would you recommend I do? I'm no good at talking to people in that kind of condition. Also... bravo to what you do.

Crisis_Connection63 karma

I'm so sorry that happened to you. I can imagine the situation you might have been in to have to pick up the phone, only to hear that someone on the other line may die. The first thing you want to do is try to understand what they're saying. Listen to them talk. The first chance you can get, you should try to tell them politely that they've reached someone's private cell phone.

If it happens to you often, I think the absolute best thing you can do is to carry the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's number on you, so that you can give it to that person. The number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Otherwise, if you're up for it, I'd say go for some training and maybe you can help someone yourself :)

falfu17 karma

I'm really not trying to be funny or anything, but there is actually a (bollywood) movie with this exact same premise, Jhootha Hi Sahi, and I'm just gonna leave the link to the movie here (there are English subs, and it's on YouTube!) because its a nice movie that deals with quite some of the issues with suicide without being a total depressing flick. (Hope it's ok for me to post it here!)


Crisis_Connection2 karma

Hey, tht's an interesting premise for a show! I'm glad that someone is making a movie like that. Perhaps something like that will catch on here in America as well.

47attemptslater41 karma

If someone says they are a parent, or the sole care giver of children, will you call CPS if they say they're suicidal or considering suicide? This is something that's held me back in my darkest moments... terrified that by calling and asking for help, it would very literally destroy my family. Maybe even for years to come... simply for asking for help during a bad, bad time.

Crisis_Connection2 karma

/u/moderatelygood gave the same answer I would. If a person calls and says that they are a parent, we would not immediately call cps. We want to focus on -you- and your safety. We are mandated reporters, so if we felt that you were going to harm those children, we would call 911, but we are not ever going to call cps because we feel you can't take care of those children. If anything, we will encourage you to think about your children in these dark times, and how much they would miss you, as a reason for living. Calling a suicide hotline should not ever get your kids taken from you.

amandapleez37 karma

First of all thank you for volunteering for this much needed resource. I have a couple questions:

  1. How/When did you decide you were the type of person who is right for this job?

  2. I am aware that medical professionals are (for the most part) able to emotionally detach themselves from high stress situations like these. Would you say that the emotional nature of this job effects your personal life after work?

Crisis_Connection60 karma

Hey, you're welcome. Thank you for your appreciation.

  1. I am a psychology undergrad, and I'm looking to get into a clinical psychology profession. I felt that volunteering for this position would be a great way to work with people in the profession, and give me experience working with people in a setting like this. To be honest, it was rather a selfish reason to volunteer, but since then it has blossomed to a more sincere care for the people on the lines, especially as I begin to understand the positions that many people are in.

  2. I wouldn't say that everyone is able to emotionally detach themselves fully. Like I said in my response to /u/happylittletrees19, we are trained to use self-care and to decompress after calls. If we were able to detach emotionally it wouldn't be the best, since we wouldn't be able to empathize with the people on call. We are encouraged to debrief and talk through our feelings with supervisors. As for affecting my personal life, I would say that there have been a call or two that I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about, but typically I can talk it out with my supervisor and feel better. Lastly, I live a decent ways away from the center itself, and I feel that a nice long drive home can definitely help separate my personal life from the volunteer center.

minibabybuu6 karma

I suffer from depression but for a time thought about doing something like this to help others like I've been helped (I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the persistence of my therapist) but had the fear of bringing that kind of work home with me and it kept me from changing my major to that, does the decompression really help that much?

Crisis_Connection3 karma

I personally have been fortunate enough to not have to deal with any lasting mental illnesses in my life. I don't know if any other volunteers are dealing with mental illnesses while volunteering though. I would try to find someone who has been in that position and see how things went for them.

I can give my own motivational opinion though, and say, go for what you wanna do, and if it turns out badly, you can always try another route, but you won't know if it would have been fulfilling if you don't try.

Zerotan4 karma

My fiancee first used a crisis line last week and they were amazing. They helped her engage, get out of her own head, and made her feel human again. I try to do the same, but I can't always be there, and I don't always say the right things.

You do great work. Thank you immensely.

Crisis_Connection2 karma

Thanks for your appreciation, and thank -you- for being a supportive fiancee.

MJShepard34 karma


Crisis_Connection66 karma

We had so many calls last night. We had double the amount of volunteers for a while and still had people waiting. We don't put people on hold, but if you call and all the counselors are already on calls, you'll have to wait.

We had a large influx of people that were

a. Calling just to see what the line was like, or about.

b. now calling in because Robin Williams gave them the courage to reach out for help.

and C. Calling to tell us that they appreciate us.

As for your other question, we have some people that call in every day, on the dot, same time. We usually recognize them and limit the time that they are allowed to talk with us, as they are doing it for social anchoring and are not currently having an emergency. We treat them with the same respect as everyone else though :)

agentndo25 karma

We usually recognize them and limit the time that they are allowed to talk with us, as they are doing it for social anchoring and are not currently having an emergency. We treat them with the same respect as everyone else though :)

I work for a mental health org and I know that some of our own members are 'social callers' and I sometimes get complaints from crisis workers at different crisis lines or warm lines on their habitual calling as well as complaints from the members at how they were treated rudely because they weren't 'in crisis'. Thank you for being respectful in how you remind them that you need to help other people and have to go.

Crisis_Connection2 karma

Hey, thanks for your appreciation and thank you for the work that you do as well!

staresatsun19 karma

How do they train you to handle calls? Surely they don't just let anyone work there.

Crisis_Connection42 karma

We have one full month of training. We met twice a week for three hours at a time, as well as one weekend of eight hour day suicide special training, and two observation shifts, four hours each. The training that we have is centered around a style of counseling called motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing is a client centered and rather passive form of counseling that is easy to customize to each situation. It is based on positive regard and reflection, which we use to help lead the client to their own conclusions.

cranberrylvr16 karma

I would just like to add that some centers have different types of training. I am also a crisis volunteer and my training was for about 4 months in addition to 4 observational shifts on with someone more experienced than I. It honestly sometimes comes down to the money that centers have. Some money does come from governments but you'd be surprised to see how sometimes centers break down because funding was taken away.

Crisis_Connection13 karma

I understand completely. The center I am with, I would describe, is about average in terms of funding. There are lines we still answer that we get no funding for, but we aren't in danger of closing down. Thank you for being a crisis worker!

yupishi2 karma

Could you give us an example of questions or statements you might use in response to callers?

Crisis_Connection2 karma

Well, I always start out by asking "What's on your mind tonight, -name-?" Or "What are you thinking about?" The things we ask depend on the issues at hand and the caller's specific situation. For example, if the caller is having issues with another person, we would ask questions related to compromise and working with that person, or somehow incorporating a more stable and permanent third party to work with them.

We are encouraged to use reflective and validating statements in almost all regards, for example, things like: "It sounds like you've been having a rough time lately, dealing with -short summary of the problems they've presented-." It lets them know that we're listening, and helps them to feel like their concerns are valid, and deserve to be helped.

We would also ask questions about their hobbies and interests, if it's a case of needing an immediate distraction from suicide or another problem that can't be immediately fixed. The call in center is primarily about patching up a major issue so that the caller will be safe for the time being, and helping to put the caller into contact with more permanent resources.

Zerotan2 karma

Do you learn to dissociate during/after calls? I know you do great things for people and that must feel good, but is there horrible information you have to remove yourself from?

Crisis_Connection2 karma

We are encouraged to do self care, relaxing things that will help us to decompress. We also talk with our supervisors after difficult calls to help us debrief from some of the more worrying things that we have to deal with. We do learn to kind of separate volunteer work from personal lives.

lizmax16 karma

What kind of people call these numbers? Do you have to be suicidal or do people that are just depressed (or even manic) call?

Crisis_Connection22 karma

You can call any time you need someone to talk to and we will do our best to set you up and make sure that you're safe and comfortable for the night. We typically tend to limit repeat callers to ten to fifteen minutes, and non-emergency but new callers to twenty to thirty. There may also be a crisis line you can call that isn't actually geared towards suicide. We answer one of those at the call center I volunteer for as well.

lizmax9 karma

So a crisis call center would be more adequate for non-emergent cases. Would that also include people who are having thoughts but no intention of committing suicide?

Crisis_Connection22 karma

Yeah, we take calls from people that have high ideation but low desire. That is, they think about it often but don't have an intention to attempt it. But yes, if you could find a crisis line to call, it would be great. But don't, in any way, think this means you cannot call the NSPL line, or that you are less important than another person. We care about each caller and want to help make things better. Call any line that you feel will help.

knittingquark15 karma

Are there restrictions or guidelines on people with mental health problems volunteering? For example, I have a history of suicidal ideation, and am treated for (touch wood) controlled depression, and so I'm in a position to really understand the value of what crisis lines do. That said, I've always been hesitant to volunteer because I don't know how serious the risk is of triggering my own issues. Is that something that's covered beforehand?

Crisis_Connection21 karma

The only real restriction is a restriction that you place on yourself. If there are any issues that could arise, they usually do during training. If anything happens during a shift that would trigger a bad time, you have your supervisors to help you through it. If you feel that you would not be able to handle it for health reasons, you won't be forced to continue. That said, it is often good for people with their own issues to volunteer in order to better empathize with the callers. Go for it, and see if you find it to be the right thing.

viollethe15 karma

  1. Have you ever met someone and recognized them as a caller?
  2. Have you ever recognized a caller's voice as someone you knew or as someone who had called before?

Also, thank you for doing what you do.

Crisis_Connection25 karma

I have not ever met someone that I recognized as a caller, however, I have listened to the story that a person told me on the phone and recognized it as someone from my area. I did not know them well enough to harm my impartiality though, as I would have then handed the call off to somebody else.

Someone I know, or suspect I know, was given as an example of a difficult caller though. This should change nothing though, as I pride myself on being able to remain impartial.

MKK44814 karma

Out of all the legitimate calls, how many are prank calls?

Crisis_Connection27 karma

Well, I've not taken any prank calls yet. I'd say that less than 1% are prank calls.

MKK44822 karma

Ah, well that's excellent

Bramse9 karma

You gotta be a real shitty person to prank call a suicide hotline. Save that for the pizza place.

cjap20113 karma

Unfortunately, there are plenty of shitty people around.

GenericVillain3 karma

Jeez, I'll say. I spent a year or two doing this when I was an undergrad and there was a regular problem with a guy who would phone and pleasure himself simply while listening to a girl's voice. Naturally, he would always ask to speak with a girl if one of we males answered.

Crisis_Connection2 karma

This happens, sadly. I haven't seen it happen yet but I know it does.

I have express verbal permission from my supervisor to respond to any "Is this the Krusty Krab?" Calls with "No, this is Patrick."

Just putting that out there.

cent6614 karma

How long does the average crisis line volunteer last in their job?

Crisis_Connection20 karma

Some of the people only stay the required year of one shift per week, and there are others who have been there for over ten years, and some that take extra shifts all over the place. It really depends on your motivations for being there, and your availability and other plans in life.

Grodd3 karma

Required year? Are you under contract?

Crisis_Connection2 karma

When agreeing to volunteer, we sign an agreement that we are trading the training costs for a certain amount of hours volunteering, which adds up to one four hour shift each week for a year. After that you have no obligation to continue, but many do. Many of the people responding to this post are correct.

HotSauceHigh11 karma

How does a conversation start when you pick up the phone? What if someone doesn't know what to say? And will people find out they called? What if they can't afford the treatments you recommend, like ambulance rides, hospital stays, and medical treatment? What if they can't leave the house?

Crisis_Connection21 karma

Well, we start with a little bit of a scripted response. We give our name, ask their name, zip code, and a phone number in case we get disconnected. Then I personally just start by asking "What's on your mind?" If they don't know what to say, I'll ask what prompted them to call. As far as the treatments like ambulances and stuff, we prioritize current care. If you need an ambulance like right now, we're sending you one regardless. We will get someone to you if you need it.

Ravyn8211 karma

Is your center regional? Do they have caller ID? I ask because what if you feel someone truly is a danger to themselves...can you send someone to them?

Crisis_Connection16 karma

My center operates primarily within state, though we do accept calls from out of our own state. We do have caller id, so we can call the police or a mobile crisis unit to go to them if they're having an emergency. Typically we won't do this unless it's an extreme emergency, because most people trust us not to call the police on them. Sometimes they want us to promise we won't, and we want them to trust us.

Ravyn827 karma

That makes sense, I assume people want some anonymity to be free to say whatever they truly feel.

Crisis_Connection12 karma

Definitely. And we promise that anonymity. We don't ask for much information, and we certainly don't spread it.

minibabybuu4 karma

what would be an example of an extreme emergency that would resort to this?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

During training we were told about a person who called the crisis center, and gave his information. The zip code and the call placement didn't match up, so there were two possibly places he could be.

He had called us because he stated that he was going to commit suicide. He did not want us to try and stop him, he stated that he was merely calling 'so that there would be a record of his existence, somewhere'. He also stated that he was at a pay phone outside of a populated mall and was going to shoot people.

We dispatched police, who were able to apprehend him safely.

This, in addition to suicide calls where people are very high risk, as in "I have wanted to commit suicide for months now, I have a loaded gun in my hand and no reason to live." Would be a case where we would call, and keep him on the line as long as possible.

claymcdab11 karma

What is your craziest story? OP now is your time to deliver.

Crisis_Connection33 karma

Craziest story? Well, I can't be too detailed because we have anonymity rules but here goes:

One night I was in the call center and got a call from the NSPL line, the suicide line. I pick up the line and ask for the caller's name and zip code, as per usual, and the phone number in case the call gets dropped. The man on the other end of the line refused, stating that 'he knew we already had all of his information'.

He sounded like he was in a lot of pain. It was a cross between sounding like someone was stepping on his foot with an anvil, and that whining sound that kids use when they don't get what they want (I'm not saying that he was a whiny kid, I'm just trying to describe his tone of voice). He confided in me that he was having seizures and that he needed laxatives to help with it. I was rather dumbfounded.

Now, this is a big no-no. We cannot touch medication at all. We can ask for information about medication, but we cannot ever ever suggest that you should stop, alter, change, or do anything else with medication, even something seemingly harmless like laxatives. We cannot try to get you any medication at all.

So the first thing we try, is we offer to call 911 for him, and they would be able to take him to the hospital, as they would be able to help him, right? Wrong. He launches on a tirade about how calling the police would only have them come to his house and beat him, then leave. He stated that everyone knows someone personally who has been beaten by the police.

The second part of the tirade was that hospitals try to mistreat him by refusing to allow him to drink water. Every sentence was ended in that whiny voice kids use, "They refuse me waattteeerrrrrr....".

The third part of this tirade that I was listening to was the most off. He told me about a secret cult that all members of western hospitals belong to. He claimed that he uncovered a demonic cult within the western hospital system after surviving a planned hospital genocide. He lived through this genocide through protection by jesus, and has had his life threatened by high ranking members in the hospital/cult.

After this he reiterated that the taxi system in his area had been closed for an hour, and if we couldn't get him laxatives from the pharmacy down the street, then we were worthless counselors and there was no point in our line even existing.

It was at this point that the supervisor allowed me to end the call. Politely.

claymcdab9 karma

You delivered the best your could OP. For that; I thank you.

Crisis_Connection7 karma

I hope it impressed!

tbryson6129 karma

What is the most terrifying experience you've had with while volunteering?

Crisis_Connection10 karma

Not a call I took, but one that I was listening to while training. A man called because his daughter was assaulting his son, both teenagers with the daughter being a little older. We ended up calling a mobile crisis team and hooking them together. The scary part though was that we could hear the teenagers screaming bloody murder at each other.

HeyBP1 karma


Crisis_Connection2 karma

As soon as we can determine that someone is about to be harmed, whether by the caller, or anyone else, we dispatch the police as soon as we can.

It's okay to go into it with no experience at all. Many of our volunteers do the same.

I would encourage you to try. You get the full experience of the volunteer work during training, and you can always back out during then. There won't be very many surprises during actual volunteer work that doesn't come up during training. Go for it!

uninnocent9 karma

What do you do outside of the Crisis Line to cope with everything you encounter?

Crisis_Connection31 karma

Me personally? I like to play video games and watch movies. Sometimes I like to read. I'm a fan of fantasy novels and Patrick Rothfuss is a living conduit to a magical world that I love very much. I will talk about the calls to other volunteers and my supervisors, as well as my family, though I only talk to them about things that I'm allowed, as we have anonymity rules.

Wambulance_Driver1 karma

Crisis Line by day, l33tki113r6969 by night.

Crisis_Connection1 karma

Haha. More like unintentional enemy feeder. I'm also your typical steam "I have so many more games than I can actually play" gamer.

Buckysaurus8 karma

How gratifying is your job to you?

Crisis_Connection13 karma

Well, it's not actually a job. I volunteer there. It's very fulfilling, as I come away believing that I've made a difference in people's lives, sometimes it's a small difference, and sometimes it's a life saved. It feels really good and I plan on doing it as long as I can.

LifeActuary8 karma

Have you ever, in your opinion, been directly responsible for saving someone's life? On the flip side have you ever felt like you were unable to help someone?

Crisis_Connection13 karma

I've felt both of these feelings before. I've also witnessed other people in the same situation.

There was one situation where I answered an NSPL call where the caller chose not to give his area or his phone number, which typically means they don't want to be found. The person in question had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, add, and other things. He mentioned that he clearly saw how much people struggled to be around him, and felt like a burden. He wasn't very high risk according to our rating system, but he was still very important to me as he was my first serious suicide caller. I spoke with him for 75 minutes (The average call is about 20). And by the end of the call we had discussed some ways for him to get involved with communities that shared interests with him, and kept him safe for the time being. I felt really good about this call.

The only ones I've had where I've felt like there was really nothing I could do are ones where they hang up moments after talking to me. There are also others who call in regularly to talk to someone, and some of them are in bad situations and it's really heartbreaking to listen to them, even if they are not suicidal.

snowmanpancakes6 karma

I work on a crisis line as well! Let me just say thanks for being awesome, because I know how stressful it can be sometimes! I'm a psych student too and I can't believe how much this is going to help me in the future with communicating with clients.

What do you think was the most important thing that you were taught in your training? What comes in handy the most on the line?

Crisis_Connection11 karma

I think that the most important thing I learned was the motivational interviewing techniques that help me to talk to the client. These techniques are what help me to fill the bulk of the conversation and help the client reach their conclusions.

The thing that comes the most handy is our easy access to a supervisor. This supervisor monitors the call and looks up resources for us so that we can give the client our full attention.

snowmanpancakes6 karma

wow I wish I had the use of a supervisor. We have to talk and research at the same time. We can put them on hold but crisis calls, even after you've talked them down, aren't ones you want you put a hold on.

Crisis_Connection9 karma

Yeah, we're not encouraged to put them on hold at all. But we do have an in-system IMing system that we can talk to eachother on.

RacksDiciprine6 karma

How serious are the people you talk to? Is it easy to figure out who is in a critical situation?

Crisis_Connection11 karma

We take every call very seriously. When picking up the phone there is no real way to determine all of the details of the situation.We can really only go on the details that they give us. We can try to pick up on background information, such as hearing raised voices in the background. We also have a very complex set of indicators and risk levels for callers that are suicidal. The longer we talk to them though, the longer they are safe and the more accurate we can be in our information.

exmothrowaway18308 karma

What are the indicators?

Crisis_Connection13 karma

We have four sections called Suicidal ideation, suicidal desire, suicidal capability, and buffers. Using information that we gather in the conversation, we determine how much the person has been thinking about suicide, how much the person desires to commit suicide, how capable of it they are and what buffers they might have to keep them from committing suicide.

mikelclarence4 karma

Is there a place to call to get help for people who have been affected by someone that they know committing suicide? I feel like that may help a few people out there.

Crisis_Connection9 karma

A person could call the NSPL, we would love to help out in any way we can. The only other thing that I can recommend is to see a regular counselor or therapist. If you have insurance, you can contact them and see if there is anyone they recommend in your area.

happylittletrees194 karma

Wow, I actually have a lot of questions. I guess my biggest one would be, have you ever gotten personally involved in a person's situation? Like, have you ever gotten so involved in someone, that you've given them your own personal number or something similar for later (and more private) communication?

Crisis_Connection22 karma

Nope. This has never happened as far as I'm aware, and will never happen. It would breach so many codes of ethics it makes me dizzy. That and we are monitored by supervisors who would stop us. Instant boot, that would be.

happylittletrees195 karma

Oh, I see. Well, my next question, if you don't mind me asking another, would be how do you keep from bringing your work home with you? How do you keep from feeling depressed yourself, and keep from maybe even blaming yourself for not being able to help someone enough?

Crisis_Connection16 karma

This is something that we cover in training. One of the ways is to keep people on rather short shifts. Typically we only have volunteers come in for one four hour shift per week. Supervisors work more than this, and are paid.

The training that we have emphasizes self care. If we finish a call that is particularly trying, we are encouraged to debrief, take a break, talk to our supervisor about it, who can counsel us through things. Sometimes we do feel that we should have, or could have done more to help the person on the other line, when realistically we couldn't have. It's important to have self-care.

happylittletrees194 karma

That's really heartening to hear. I'm happy that the volunteers (and full-time employees I hope) are taken care of so well. I know it isn't really a call center, but you always hear stories of how management doesn't back up people when customers are terrible, or they've had a really bad call.

The people you deal with aren't customers, but the emotions are there. I'm really happy there is a support system in place and your feelings are taken care of straight out of the bat.

Crisis_Connection8 karma

Oh yeah. I am so thankful for my supervisors. They back me up in every way possible. While I talk to the person, they are there looking up resources, coaching me on which directions to take the calls, and making sure that I'm able to take care of the client on the phone. Supervisors are angels.

sessuna3 karma

This is awesome. I just recently got accepted into the program will be completing my ASSIST training over the weekend. Its good to know that you are finding it to be fulfilling, my biggest fear is that I may not be able to put on my third person hat and effectively separate my volunteering from my day to day life. How have you dealt with this, and do you have any tips for me?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

/u/CrisisLineThrowaway is exactly right. From what that user has said, he or she may well even have been trained right along side me. Use human empathy, but remind yourself that you're not meant to be a savior, you're meant to be a friend, an empathetic ear.

I deal with this by listening to music on the long car ride home, and the best thing to do is to distract you with something that can keep your focus. If it doesn't distract you enough to keep you from thinking about that one bad call, you should probably try something else.

Emmerboo3 karma

Are you from Headquarters?

Crisis_Connection6 karma

I don't understand your question. I am not from any headquarters. I'm not involved in any form of administration. Just a volunteer.

quinnsical3 karma

First of all,it's a great thing you do and I think this post should have more up votes. I guess I have two questions. 1. What is the most stressful call you've had or heard about by a fellow volunteer? 2. I've been told that all of the calls that come in are recorded. Is this true? If so, for what purpose? If not, what is a possible purpose it could have?

Crisis_Connection8 karma

  1. The most stressful call that I ever had was a 75 minute call where I had to talk down a young man from attempting suicide. He was having issues dealing with loneliness and dealing with some mental illnesses and a recent move.

  2. None of our calls are recorded. The closest thing to recording is that we take down the phone number and a quick written synopsis of the call so that we have something to build on if the person calls in again. As far as a possible purpose for recording, I can't really see one. We wouldn't have time to listen to it at all.

unidentifiedpersona3 karma

Does CC still run the text 4 life program and if so will they be expanding? As a former intern, I really felt this program was beneficial to a population that doesn't always feel comfortable reaching out via the phone. There were some fantastic people working there when I was there! Hope you are lucky enough to work with Mary & Sonya if they're still supervisors!

lazycrazymind3 karma

Text4Life is still going strong but the full expansion has not happened yet. I'm a former staff that stays in contact.

Crisis_Connection2 karma

This is correct. I'm friends with one of the Text4Life coordinators. The big expansion hasn't happened yet, but it is still up and running. We actually operate out of the same room.

UpDownBackBack3 karma

In your opinion, what is the best (paypal friendly) organization to make a donation to?

Also, what is the best way a fairly well known band could make a difference in terms of fundraising or awareness?

Crisis_Connection2 karma

Go local. Make a donation to literally any local group that you can find that you feel makes a difference. Many people like to donate to big groups like the red cross, but when I'm at the call center, the places we tell people to go are the small places. Local shelters, walk in free counseling, anon groups. All of these places are small local places that need funding to keep up.

As for a fairly well known band, I'd say that your experience in raising a band awareness trumps mine in terms of funding and awareness. I'd say perhaps holding a fundraising concert wherein you can give out information on the issues you find important would be good. As a public figure, people listen to what you say, and will be likely to agree with you.

fett4evr3 karma

Have you ever talked as they were dying from a suicide attempt or did someone actually go through with it before the conversation was over?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

I have fortunately never been in this position. I haven't heard of anybody that has had this happen to them either.

the_cooky_ninja2 karma

Do you have a certain "script" that you have to use? If so have you ever broken from it and just had a one on one with someone, not as suicidal person to call taker but as two people? Finally, what are some of the main things that you say to talk people down, and have the smallest things ever stopped someone from comitting suicide (such as "if you kill yourself who will water mrs smith from down the hall's geraniums? you promised her you would) (also thanks for all you do to better the world)

Crisis_Connection2 karma

The only script we have is the one that opens. We look at which line the client is calling and usually answer, "This is -line- my name is -name-. Can I have your name and zip code please?" The client answers. "And in case we get disconnected, can I have a call-back number?"

After that we're freestylin'.

When we're talking people down from suicide, there is a sort of pattern that we need to go through.

First we need to listen to their reasons for wanting to commit suicide. Most people would like to jump straight into trying to focus on reasons to live, that's a bad idea. We need to listen to the reasons for dying so that we can try to address those, and so the caller knows that -we care about the same things they care about-. If we try to dismiss the reasons they have for dying, then they will feel that we are trying to save them for our own egos, and not for their safety.

Then we can move on to reasons for living. Try anything and everything. Even the smallest things like watering Mrs. Smith's geraniums.

Make connections to people as much as possible. Get the person to list people they can call and talk to.

ASIST training goes into much more detail for creating a safety plan, which is essentially a list of things that a person should do if they begin to feel suicidal, which will alleviate the suicidal thoughts.

lol0lulewl2 karma

what kind of training do you guys have and how do you guys actually "help"?

i once called at the height of my depression and it seemed like the person not only didn't know what they were doing (there were lots of awkward silences), they also seemed to not realize the seriousness of my situation

Crisis_Connection1 karma

We have a month of training in what is called Motivational Interviewing. It's a counseling style that focuses on listening to the client and helping the client to solve the problems, and giving them the tools to do so.

You probably had a new volunteer, or one that wasn't very good at empathizing, which could explain why he didn't seem to understand how serious your depression was.

I have silences too. Typically this is me trying to figure out where to go with the conversation, or seeing if you'll offer up some information, or sometimes it's me quickly getting a resource or guidance from my supervisor.

dargscisyhp2 karma

What level of confidentiality can someone expect when calling a line such as yours?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

/u/CrisisLineThrowaway has been my guardian angel while offline. He or she is absolutely right again.

Our center does not record calls at all. We shred any and all information that we may have written down during a call. The only information we save is a short synopsis of the call that is attached to the phone number, just in case you need us again, so we can help better.

Unless the person calling is doing something that we are mandated to report, such as harm of a child or vulnerable adult, or threats of homicide, or a serious enough suicide call, nobody will ever know that you called a line. Complete anonymity.

stillcole2 karma


Crisis_Connection1 karma

No, in my case it will be 'Clinical Psychologist."

PsychedTomorrow2 karma


Crisis_Connection1 karma

I personally haven't witnessed this happen. I can't say that it doesn't though.

billingforaliving2 karma

Have you ever had anyone famous call you?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

Not that I was able to identify.

LHRJ2 karma


Crisis_Connection2 karma

It's okay for anyone to volunteer really, if they're capable of empathy. If there are any problems, trust me, it'll come out in training. You'll do fine :)

CourtM0922 karma

What is your protocol if someone is sounding delusional or "off"? Also, what is your protocol if someone is in potential danger... like they are intentionally outside near a busy road or on a bridge?

Thank you for you volunteer work. I am a volunteer EMT and I've responded to a few on these type of emergencies and it's difficult to talk to the person from the stress of the lights and EMS personnel. I can imagine how difficult it may be over the phone.

Crisis_Connection2 karma

We try to treat everyone the same, and if it seems like someone is delusional, such as a schizophrenic, seeing things that can't be real like goblins coming out of their t.v., we try to work with the delusions to come to a safe and healthy way to keep comfortable.

If we can tell that someone is in danger, like near a road or on a bridge, we would do our best to get the person to remove themselves from danger. If they flat out refuse, we would call emergency services.

Thank you so much for your service as an EMT. Your work is very vital, and we owe you so much for being able to help when we call.

CourtM0922 karma

Do you just go with those delusions/hallucinations or do you try and reason by saying they aren't real? I always found that if I'm working with those spectrum of patients (people), it's much easier to get them to go along and be more responsive to me if I just go along with the way they are thinking.

I must have to say though that these kind of calls we respond to are the most time consuming, emotional and difficult calls to respond to. I've learned so much patience from the years working EMS. I remember my first EDP and by the time we convinced the patient that we aren't going to hurt them and they can trust us, I was a wreck.

I've never been in their shoes before. Seeing these people that vulnerable, devastated, and to the point of suicide, makes me feel vulnerable and devastated for these people.. I still can't fully detach myself from these calls. When we finally get them in the ambulance, I always try and talk to them (I always want all of my patients to know that I'm here because I want to be and not just some 21 year old girl filling out reports or watching them), sometimes they feel comfortable enough to tell me what is going on with them; Some people have no idea why they feel the way they do, whereas some people say that they feel a certain way because a, b or c happened. I honestly will say that I really just want to give them the biggest hug in the world. Some actually ask for a hug and I'm like "I'm down for a hug right now"

Traumas, vomit, blood... doesn't bother me... but these ones do the most.

I give you full props of doing this work and sticking with it. I don't think I could do that. Not a lot of people can. I wish you good luck in finishing your undergrad studies.

Crisis_Connection2 karma

If the delusions aren't harmful at that exact moment we tend to go along with them. Some of them have a history with us though, and we can reason with those. We have also had people call in to ask us if they are hallucinating or not, ie "Hi, I'm calling because I have a mental illness... and there purple tentacles on my ceiling trying to steal my pancakes, do you think I'm hallucinating? Is this the mental illness that I have?"

Also, I totally get where you're coming from wanting to hug those that you're helping. I want to be there for them too, and sometimes it can be difficult to detach. The best thing is to talk to someone about it and do things to distract you.

acealeam2 karma

Hello, I'm not sure if you're still taking questions, but could I get some advice? My friend constantly confides in me. She overreacts where everything pushes her to thr verge of suicide, to the point where it's a bit ridiculous. Obviously I don't want to tell her this, but it's taking a toll on me. She's nice and all, but this is overwhelming. How can I help her, without having to constantly help her?

Crisis_Connection2 karma

Hey. I'm still checking a little bit from time to time. My advice to you would be to give her the NSPL line so that she has a resource to go to other than you. Also, see if you can encourage her to find a source of regular counseling. Her insurance provider should be able to point her in the right direction if she has it. If not, try to look for walk-in counseling centers or a university nearby.

freshwhitesocks2 karma

What exactly happens when someone who is suicidal calls the line? Do the police get involved, do they talk to them about why they should live, etc? I'm generally curious of how one of these calls plays out.

Crisis_Connection1 karma

The police are rarely involved. ASIST training gives us a sort of template to move through. We talk about the reasons that the person has for committing suicide, and the reasons they have for living. We talk about anything and everything that the person wants to talk about. We like to give them a safety plan. The safety plan goes through steps that a person can take when they are feeling suicidal, that range gradually from self help, to social interactions, to medical help.

The only time we ever call the police is if we don't believe we will be able to keep the person from attempting suicide, or if the person is going to harm others.

earthtosleepysmile2 karma

How did you get started volunteering? How did you get your ASIST certification? I've been wanting to get into volunteering but I can't seem to find the resources to get started.

Crisis_Connection6 karma

Well, I was looking specifically to volunteer in an area that would let me work with people, and gain skills in counseling while I was at it. I went to my university guidance counselor and she pointed out a tool that the university offered that would allow me to look at all sorts of local places to get started.

ASIST certification is a special training session that takes place for a weekend, eight hours each day. I was given the training through the center that I volunteer for. It is open to others to go through, but you must pay if you are not going through our volunteer network.

magic_over_physical2 karma

what if the person has nothing so say? is it ok to just hang on the line

Crisis_Connection2 karma

If it seems like the person is having trouble articulating, it's okay to remain on the line and see if you can't lead something out of them eventually.

If the line is just dead and we don't get any response after asking hello a couple times, it will seem like the call was dropped. We would have no reason to stay on the line then.

obsidianchao2 karma

This AMA really makes me want to volunteer for my local line. I'm gonna look into that.

Question: what made you want to volunteer for the hotline?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

I got into it to get some experience working in the mental health care field. Specifically something where I can be in contact with clients and work with others in the field. This is the perfect kind of thing for me, and I enjoy it very much.

You should totally go for it.

minibabybuu2 karma

Have you ever watched the movie "mixed nuts"? I always like to imagine if I ever call a hotline its going to be to some person with crazy bullshit going on in their lives like that.

Crisis_Connection1 karma

I have not seen that movie. I should look it up sometime.

Inhesion2 karma

I'm currently in 1st year of a 3 year psych degree, I was wondering what would be an appropriate time to volunteer for a crisis line. Aka, 2nd year or third year? Also thank you for volunteering and sharing your experience!

Crisis_Connection1 karma

I am currently starting the fourth year of a four year undergrad in psych. I feel that I started at a good time, but I certainly could have started earlier. My advice to you would be, if you haven't had any experience in college scheduling yet, you should wait at least a semester or two so that you know how you're going to schedule your classes, and make sure you have time for it. Then you can go at it.

ChemicalZebra2 karma

Firstly, thanks so much for doing this. My brother has been showing signs of being seriously depressed and having suicidal ideations for a while, and I keep encouraging him to call one of these crisis hotlines, but he's too nervous to do it. Do a lot of people seem nervous or apprehensive?

Do you have many calls where people just end up hanging up? Are a lot just people kind of crying in to the phone? What do you do/say when they're just uncontrollably crying?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

Yes. A thousand times yes. People are always nervous and sometimes afraid to call us. They're afraid that we're going to judge them, or say something they don't like. Once again /u/CrisisLineThrowaway has a good answer.

People call crying as well. Sometimes people begin crying during the call. This is okay, and we usually simply try to calm them down, or even just sit and listen to them cry. It is okay to cry.

Thank you for being a supportive brother.

noodleworm2 karma

When a person with high idealization is told to get help. what help specifically does that mean? What are the steps you tell a person in crisis in order to get their life back on track?

I feel its fair enough saying to people 'get help', but I figure some people would benefit form more specific instruction.

Crisis_Connection1 karma

We never just tell people to 'get help'. We are the help. They came to us to get help.

Typically we will try to find a permanent resolution for this. The first thing we will do, most likely, is ask them if they have a counselor that they see regularly. If they do not, we will then ask if they have insurance. Usually insurance cards have contact info on them that they can call and find out if there are any mental health care providers near by that they can cover. If not, we attempt to put them into contact with a free mental health care provider.

WC_Dirk_Gently2 karma

How often have you had to escalate to having your supervisor activate EMS?

I'm all for crisis lines, I think they do a lot of good. However, I also think it is fairly disingenuous that most people who call in are unaware that most hotlines have similar capabilities to conventional 911 in being able to track callers locations. I'm not a volunteer, though I am vaguely familiar with the general requirements for intervention escalation. But, at the same time I think it's pretty shitty that you can go from talking about some suicidal ideation to having Police and EMS show up at your house and essentially kidnapping you for a couple hours if not a day.

Crisis_Connection1 karma

I have yet to see police being called during one of my own shifts, but I know that one incident happened this month.

I understand your feeling as far as not letting the person know that we can call the police on them. However, I am going to pick a little bit of EMS intervention over letting a person die any day. We only ever call if we think that there will be nothing we can do to save that person's life.

As a note though, we can't track people like 911 can. The closest we will ever get is your county. Only 911 can get closer than that.

futtbucked691 karma

Do you ever get prank calls, and how do you handle those?

Crisis_Connection4 karma

Typically we just remind them that this is a serious line and people call in to help with their problems, and then we hang up.

Texassman1 karma


Crisis_Connection1 karma

First, I would have restrained myself from fan-gushing over him.

Second, I would treat him with empathy and compassion. I would listen to all of the things that he had to say, without restraint. I would talk with him about anything and everything, and try to listen to all of his reasons for dying, and try to find out all of his reasons for living as well. I would make a safe plan with him whereby we could encourage him to use self-care and encourage him to be in contact with people socially that are close to him. Since we are not a permanent solution, I would also work with him to find a mental health care provider that could see him.

Sebtg1 karma

Have you ever talked to someone that was really friendly sounding? As if they talked to you as a member of their family and would this send of worse warning signals than anyone who is obviously depressed?

Crisis_Connection1 karma

I've talked to some friendly folk. Tuesday night I talked to a fellow who said that he had been thinking about suicide for some time. He didn't have a high desire, but he had been thinking about it for a long time. He sounded more curious than anything else.

Dr_Jerkface0 karma

What if someone called and admitted to something reprehensible? Would you be like, "Okay, off yourself."?

Crisis_Connection8 karma

No, I would not. My reaction would depend on what the action was, as our volunteers are mandated reporters. I would treat him the same as any other caller and try to help him through his problems.

GaryOaksGF-3 karma

How many dogs have you seen?

Crisis_Connection3 karma

I have not seen any dogs at the call center.

GaryOaksGF0 karma

No, like.... Across your entire life. (Not on TV or the Internet, REAL dogs.)

Thanks for your work by the way, you must feel good about what you do : ) When you get stressed, remember how many others you're helping. Take a break when you need it.

Crisis_Connection7 karma

We have a dog here at home. He is a cocker spaniel. He is still a puppy and he is adorable. I guess I don't know how many dogs I've seen in real life.

sherlocksauce-11 karma

Oh god... my friend and I called the crisis hotline once... He uses and old woman voice, while I play rain/thunder sounds along with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hddCpJ8MfVo video going on in the background. He says that "her" husband is attempting to assault her, therefore "she" is hiding on the roof. The video is audible and "she" informs the operator that her husband has found her. Now, the operator tells her that she needs to call the police. He says, "Okay, I will," and hangs up. A few minutes later, we get a call back. She asks "her" if she had called the police, and he uses his regular voice to say "uhh, wrong number." He hangs up again. Then, he left my house. Later, however, he told me that he got a call from THE POLICE DEPARTMENT and they lectured him for 20 mins on why you should not make prank calls like that. I was a dick as a kid, and so was my friend, we understand this now...

Crisis_Connection16 karma

Uh, yeah. That was terrible of you. Just sayin' dude. Someone thought that was real. You made someone believe that your life was in danger and that person was responsible for it. Have you ever been responsible for the life of a person that you don't know, and may be allowed to lose it? It's terrifying. If the person on the other line didn't end up knowing that it was a prank, that person could have had serious issues to deal with for nothing. I hope you've grown up, as you stated you understand now.