The sixth and final episode in our podcast A World Where LivingWorks is “Behind Crisis Lines”. This episode takes a look at the people and practices behind crisis lines and suicide intervention support services. Who are the voices at the other end of the line? What training and support do they receive to be there for people in distress?
Host Kim Borrowdale talks to Joe Ball, CEO of Switchboard Victoria, Australia, and Shari Sinwelski, Vice President of National Networks, Vibrant Emotional Health and Deputy Director, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States.
Switchboard is a suicide prevention organization that provides peer-driven support services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse,intersex, queer, and asexual LGBTIQA+ people, their families, allies, and communities.
Vibrant Emotional Health administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US with funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The aim is to provide 24/7 support to anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis in the US through a network of crisis centres across the country. Close to 200 centres have joined the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and take calls from individuals in their local communities.
Shari recalls the early days of crisis lines where there was some doubt they would work, “If somebody is really thinking about suicide, are they really going to even call a crisis hotline? There were these hesitations or considerations that people would have wondered if it was even a method that they would want to fund and support in terms of supporting people in crisis. I think what we learned from our early evaluations was that yes, very seriously suicidal people were calling, people who had sometimes even taken action to take their own lives, and there were really great things happening when people were calling the lines and great interventions were happening.”
When asked who usually works or volunteers at a crisis line, she has this to say, “You might be a psychologist, you might be a volunteer, you might be a mother, you might be a student.” Both Shari and Joe agree that you need to be able to listen to callers’ intense and deep feelings when they call because they are in crisis and all this needs to be done calmly and supportively.
Joe recently ran into a person who worked at Switchboard in the past and he passed this onto Joe, “The skills that he learned through being a peer supporter with Switchboard have stayed with him his whole life and I've heard that story a number of times, like the skills you learn to listen to other people, to be respectful, be empathetic, be non-judgmental, those skills are something that don't stop when you put the phone down and come off shift, hopefully. They’re skills that you actually take with you.”
Joe adds, “And that's what gets me up every morning, I think, is that I know that I'm building a more resilient LGBTIQA+ community that can respond to suicide, but also that every day, I am being changed for the better.”
That wraps our first series of our new podcast A World Where LivingWorks. Watch this space for the next series and check the other five podcasts on our podcast page where we talked with people all over the world including FBI agents, Veterans, nurses, social workers, hostage negotiators and more. All united in the bid to prevent suicide and make this a world where living works.