I’ve always been passionate about supporting people when they might feel stigmatized or isolated.
When I was growing up, my family struggled with poverty. Some of them turned to substances to cope and, even though they were around, I felt alone. The first funeral I ever went to was for a coworker who died by suicide, when I was 16. He was prominent in my community and when he took his own life, I started thinking about how I could help others.
I graduated from high school in 1990 and I wanted to work with people who were struggling with HIV/AIDS, which was everywhere at that time. Since then, I’ve also felt called to work with older adults, people with severe and persistent mental illness, and people in hospice care.
There is so much yuck in the world, but there are so many people out there doing their best. I don’t want anyone to feel alone. I’m only one person, and I can’t help everyone – but I realized that I could be a part of something bigger.
I got comfortable talking about suicide so that others can feel more comfortable getting support.
I became a volunteer crisis counselor at Lines for Life to get experience in the field, and when I finished my master’s program, I applied to work as a Crisis Intervention Specialist. Shortly after, I was promoted to a supervisor position, and then to a preceptor role, coaching other responders. I now lead the experiential coaching portion of staff training – I am the Lead Clinical Preceptor for onboarding new responders.
In my role, I help new crisis counselors get comfortable having conversations about suicide and mental health, and I help prepare them to be a solid support for anyone who calls in, no matter what they’re struggling with.
When we start the conversation with callers, we don’t have time for a lot of background or to form a relationship – it’s more like a glimpse of what someone is going through in a dark moment.
Being able to sit with callers in those dark moments and help them find a sprinkle of hope, even just for getting through the day, is really powerful.