The CrisisLInk runs Northern Virginia’s 24/7 suicide prevention and crisis intervention hotline.
I was treated like royalty this past month by PRS, a local nonprofit that helps people facing life crises and mental health challenges, as part of a variety of volunteer appreciation events. Although I appreciated being recognized, my work with PRS has become more than a volunteer job…it is a calling.
My journey to become a PRS volunteer started a few years ago when I lost three people in my life to suicide within 18 months. The first was a coworker who had just survived a heart attack in the summer, and came back to work full of energy. He died by suicide over Labor Day weekend. The next was a young friend of my daughter. They were all in their first semester of college. Her death by suicide was devastating. She had been a cheerleader, active in youth groups and just a sweet free spirit. The third death by suicide was a dear friend of mine, a few days before her 50th birthday.
Each of these heightened my awareness of suicide, and ignited a feeling that I should do something. I don’t have a background in social work or counseling, so I was lost as to what I could do. One day a song came on the radio about the suicide hotline, “1-800-273-TALK” by Logic, and that’s when I knew.
I called PRS and signed up to volunteer for their CrisisLink program, which runs Northern Virginia’s 24/7 suicide prevention and crisis intervention hotline.
From the first day of training, I felt like I was in the right place. It is so gratifying. Crisis workers serve as the containers into which callers pour their deepest hurts and disappointments about life. We don’t try to fix things; we offer a safe haven for people to share their feelings without fear of judgement.
As I got involved, the biggest surprise for me was the vast range of circumstances that lead someone to consider suicide. We get calls from older adults who feel isolated; young children buckling from the pressures of school and their families; and successful people who feel they have achieved great professional success and come home to an empty house.
Last year during the holidays, I took a call from an older gentleman. He was in a nursing home and didn’t have family to check on him. He talked about feeling lonely and didn’t see any reason to keep living. He told me about his love of music. We started talking about all his musical interests, and I could sense his mood lifting. As we were wrapping up, he sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” It was beautiful and peaceful…and reinforced for me that I was in the right place.
I answered the call, but it’s so much more. Now other crisis workers have become friends, bonded by our shared desire to serve. After having been here for a year, I know that I have found my “tribe!” Of course, the need is great, and we always need more to join our tribe.
PRS CrisisLink is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 1-800-273-TALK, 703-527-4077 or text ‘CONNECT’ to 855-11. To learn more about becoming a crisis worker, visit www.prsinc.org/crisislink.