Suicide prevention is very personal to me – one of the reasons I chose this path is that I want to make sure that help is accessible, and it’s something that people are not afraid to talk about.
I grew up in extreme poverty – my brothers and I all struggled with our own mental health and substance use issues, and loss was a very prominent part of my upbringing. I saw how our health was impacted by these larger cultural systems and not just our individual choices.
I’ve always had a sense that what we see on the surface is just that – it’s only the surface, and that we all have things going on inside that we don’t show to everybody. I wanted to understand more.
After my graduate work in Marriage and Family Therapy, I became a volunteer at Lines for Life. I completed Mental Health First Aid training and ASIST training, which gave me so many skills to work with people in mental health crisis and people who are thinking about suicide. I started working professionally as a call counselor and became an ASIST instructor – teaching others the skills to help someone in a suicidal crisis.
Now, as the Director of Clinical Training at Lines for Life, I get the opportunity to share that knowledge exponentially, with every call counselor and volunteer on our team.
We provide 200 hours of training for our incoming crisis lines staff – three weeks of classroom training and two weeks of experiential training, and we are all constantly learning more.
I particularly enjoy bringing in guest speakers to continue learning about ways to connect across culture and experience, and to better support people with specific identities on our helplines. I will never have the same experience as every person who calls – but being able to connect about the emotion or the feeling they are having is where a lot of healing can happen.
Many of the call counselors – like me – have personal experience and an added layer of understanding that comes from struggling ourselves or knowing someone who has struggled with suicide.
If you’re struggling – it can help a lot to reach out and talk with one of us.
Colleen, Director of Clinical Training