Franklin James Cook

Crisis Line Worker Says Honesty Is the Best Intervention

In Grief, Hotlines, Intervention on January 11, 2009 at 8:42 am
Michelle Dougan-Sullivan (Photo by Jill Nance, <em>The News &  Advance</em>)

Michelle Dougan-Sullivan (Photo by Jill Nance, The News & Advance)

ORIGINAL STORY — In a recent story in the Lynchburg News & Advance,  reporter Casey Gillis profiles a volunteer at the Crisis Line of Central Virginia, Michelle Dougan-Sullivan, whose 16-year-old son died of suicide two years ago.

“It’s a positive way to focus my grief and focus my energy,” she says. “Whenever I come into the office, I bring his picture with me. That kind of helps to keep me focused and remember why I’m here.”

She began her career as a volunteer at the crisis center more than a year ago and, after “32 classroom hours and 20 mentoring hours” of training, was working the phones, including answering calls from people considering suicide.

“If you are open and honest with a person in crisis and actually ask that person straight out, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ they will be honest with you,” she says. “That just basically takes a weight off their shoulders and opens a door.”

“The majority of the people who call the suicide hotline or are thinking about suicide, they don’t want to die,” she adds. “They just need somebody to talk to. They just need reassurance (that) they’re worth the conversation, they do matter.”

The Crisis Line of Central Virginia offers a variety of community services in addition to answering calls for the Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), including Teen Talk for adolescents, Chatterline for younger children, the Sexual Assault Response Program, a  food program called Helping Our People Eat (HOPE), and TeleCare to help people who are homebound. All of the programs combined receive 2,000 calls a month.

Executive Director Joyce Sachs says that for some … people, Crisis Line and its volunteers are “like a lifeline. We’ll tell them to call three times a day for 10 minutes.

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

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