Capitol Hill resident Lindsay Hinshaw has been volunteering on the 24-Hour Crisis Line once a week since late last year. In that time, she’s helped people experiencing all kinds of emotional distress: depression, anxiety, grief, shame, loneliness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.
Hinshaw began volunteering at Crisis Clinic after talking to friends who volunteered for the organization and she thought she might be a good fit. “I’ve always been an empathetic, highly sensitive person and realized this would help me connect easily with people who call in,” she explains.
Crisis Clinic’s 24-Hour Crisis Line is largely staffed by volunteers who have been professionally trained to take calls from people in crisis. They are supervised by mental health professionals, but do not provide counseling or advice. Instead, they listen to callers’ concerns, ask questions, and suggest referrals where people can get further assistance when necessary.
“There’s a person behind each call, with their own stories and problems that we can only begin to understand,” she says. “Taking a moment to breathe and speak with someone can help make their day a little easier.”
For Hinshaw, volunteering on the Crisis Line has prompted her to start thinking about her future career plans. “I’d like to work as a counselor or therapist one day, and this has been a good stepping stone in realizing this,” she says.
Last year, 250 volunteers answered over 117,000 calls on the Crisis Line – but it isn’t enough. “The demand for our services continues to increase,” says Executive Director Kathleen Southwick, “and we’re not able to keep up with the demand.” The agency needs to recruit approximately 150 new volunteers every year just to maintain services. Last year, the Seattle-based nonprofit only filled 100 of these volunteer positions.
“Many people choose short-term or one-time volunteer opportunities like sorting food at a food bank or planting trees, but volunteering for Crisis Clinic is a much bigger commitment,” explains Southwick.
Each of the Crisis Line volunteers goes through a six-week training program and pledges to work a four-hour shift every week for a year. Still, Peterson hopes this won’t stop people from volunteering for the organization: “Crisis Clinic is a really important, fascinating cause that deserves attention,” she says. “Absolutely all of us are one tiny step away from any kind of life crisis. No one is invincible to it, and every individual is worthy of being heard.”
National Volunteer Week is April 12-18th. If you’re interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with Crisis Clinic, please visit their website at: http://www.crisisclinic.org.