Now that we’re in the post-holiday-recovery phase, we get to tell you what we did Dec. 25: we took calls on the LifeLine, and the Veteran’s Crisis Line, and the Helpline (for alcohol and drug-abuse resources) and spoke with people, much as we usually do.
But with this caveat: people seemed especially grateful to be here. It’s like everyone got an instant promotion to ‘distant family member.’ Because a lot of calls came from people who were feeling isolated or cut off from friends and family. And so we became that voice—the one people turn to for friendship and comfort—and we tried to listen well.
A few thoughts and observations from the staff and volunteers talking to callers Dec. 25:
Jackie R., Volunteer, retired master’s clinical social worker: “I know what it’s like to be in pain. To need someone to talk with.” Jackie spoke with a woman in her late 60s, calling from Canada, feeling isolated and lonely. Jackie talked with her about an hour, helped her get connected with mental health services in Ontario. “Every single time I leave here with a feeling of gratitude,” Jackie says. “It’s a cherished part of my life. I can’t imagine ever wanting to leave.”
Molly N., Volunteer: “I expected it to be [emotionally] more difficult today, because the holidays can be really tough on people. I can relate, as I’m alone and 2,000 miles away from family today. But I’m grateful to be here.” Molly talked with a man on the East Coast this morning. He pointed out that he’s homeless, and disconnected from friends and family. Molly found four different resources to help the man find treatment and shelter.
Amanda M., Crisis Intervention Specialist: Amanda talked with a caller who’s worried about a young person struggling with suicidal ideation. Amanda points out, “It’s harder when you can’t talk with the person directly. You have to give the caller a crash course in how to help someone else.” Amanda led the caller through a series of steps [questions to ask, some steps to take to] reduce the chance her friend would commit suicide. “You kind of become a teacher on the phone. People are extra grateful for that. It’s like getting a present when you help keep someone alive that day. It’s a present for both of you.” She adds that it’s especially true (the idea of the day, and the call itself) being a gift “when you’re able to save a life.”
Debbie Z., Assistant Director, Crisis Lines: “People feel pressured to be happy on Christmas. But troubles don’t magically disappear just because it’s Christmas. We’re here to support them in being honest. They don’t have to put on a happy face with us.”
Shagun P., Crisis Intervention Specialist: It’s the least I could do to be here. As much as people love it [the holiday], a lot of people don’t have family. They don’t have people to support them.”