Notes from a former Lifeline crisis hotline worker
Admittedly, I didn't know much about suicide when I started working on Lifeline, the crisis hotline for people with suicidal ideation. I went through the training program and learned about how to counsel anyone in crisis, but had no idea what I was getting myself into. Little did I know that it would be a life-changing experience.
When I think about all of the people I helped, a few things consistently come to mind. First, I couldn't tell you any of the names of the people who called and, in a way, I appreciate the confidentiality aspect of how the hotline works. Second, the amount of courage it takes for someone to call the hotline at the most vulnerable place in life and reach out for help is humbling. Third, I know that the work I've done has saved lives. It's one of the most powerful experiences to stay on the phone with someone until help arrives and to know that that person didn't have to be alone in this experience.
Most people steer away from talks about suicide. It's an unpleasant topic, can be scary, and usually avoided by most people (unless you're in my line of work). There are a lot of myths out there about suicide. People will say that talking openly about suicide makes someone who is suicidal more likely to want to act on their thoughts. However, in my training and experience, I've learned that this is typically not the case.
The myth that someone who "seems to have their life together" isn't likely to commit suicide is one I've also heard often. What's interesting about this myth is that people who struggle with depression may do a really good job of hiding it. In popular culture, we know about Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Robin Williams. These are all people who have had varying levels of fame and success and are memorable. They've also all completed suicide. So, sometimes, it's the people we least expect to have thoughts of suicide who will attempt and even complete it.
The thing is, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. What I know about my time working with people in crisis is that the pain is real. It's deep and winds down a dark and often times unfamiliar road. It's the kind of pain that is so heavy that people think that the only way out is to end life. What I also know is that there is recovery and healing from this pain that doesn't have to be resolved by attempting or completing suicide. There are other options and we are here to help connect anyone in need.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It's a time where we get the word out about suicide prevention and what we can do about it. Our practice is happy to help anyone and everyone get connected to the resources they need when in crisis. All it takes is an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or accessing any of the resources below.
Suicide and Crisis Resources:
If you're currently contemplating suicide or in a medical or psychiatric emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 24/7 free and confidential hotline (800-273-8255)
Emergency Resources from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741-741
RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
Veteran Affairs Mental Health Division