Seattle Foundation Blog

Crisis Clinic Saves Lives

Helpline offers connections for people in crisis and needs more volunteers


October 23, 2017

Guest blog by Wendy Williams, Crisis Clinic volunteer

As we come close to the holiday season, a time when many people struggle emotionally, this year the need for support in our region is even greater. That’s because the services offered by Crisis Clinic—the 24-Hour Crisis Line, Washington Recovery Help Line, Teen Link, and Washington Warm Line—are experiencing a substantial decrease in volunteer applicants.

For over 50 years, Crisis Clinic volunteers have been providing emotional support and referrals to people in our community who are in distress and need someone to talk with. A few years ago, I began volunteering for the 24-Hour Crisis Line.

It’s satisfying work when you really connect with a caller in their time of crisis, domestic violence, uncertainty or loneliness. I know that just by listening, sympathizing and caring, I provided something positive in that caller’s life. There’s been at least one instance where I felt I probably helped save someone’s life.

The experience has been highly rewarding on many levels. Volunteering at Crisis Clinic:

- Lets you talk with members of the community you might not normally come in contact with;
- Is a great way to improve your active-listening skills;
- Lets you work with great staff and fellow volunteers (some of whom have been there for more than 20 years).

For someone like me whose background is business and tech, helping callers with their emotional and mental health needs—even as a volunteer—has been educational and enriching. For those pursuing a career in counseling, social work or mental health, the training and experience can be invaluable. 

Volunteers Needed Now

Unfortunately, a recent decrease in volunteers is impacting Crisis Clinic’s ability to fulfill its mission.

Letha Myers, Volunteer Manager at Crisis Clinic, said: "Though we are not entirely certain what has caused this downturn, national donation and volunteer trends for 2017 seem to show giving being more sharply directed toward political action organizations.”

Crisis Clinic also helps people who are impacted by sociopolitical changes and uncertainties. Many people have called worried that they won’t be able to get behavioral health treatment if they lose their health care coverage or Medicaid. Other callers are concerned about their civil rights being rolled back, worried about a loved one being deported, or triggered by news stories about racial violence or sexual assault.

When you combine the current political climate with all the other stressors we face locally—the housing crisis, opiate epidemic, growing inequity and increased traffic congestion, to name a few—it’s easy to see how the need for Crisis Clinic’s services is growing.

You don't need special qualifications to volunteer at Crisis Clinic—they provide training and supervision. Training is offered four times a year and includes: call handling, problem solving, empathetic/active listening, community resources, mental health disorders, suicide assessment/intervention and more. You just need a desire to help others, empathy without judgment and a commitment to volunteering once a week for a year.

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering, please email volunteerservices@crisisclinic.org or call 206-461-3210 ext. 697.

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Health and WellnessVulnerable residents

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