The people sitting at a desk with their headsets on, taking a deep breath every time the phone rings, have one of the most important jobs.
They are the staff and volunteers for suicide-prevention call centers. Their voices could literally mean the difference between life and death. To me, they are just as brave as police officers and firefighters. I believe they are nothing short of heroes.
These employees and volunteers help people who need referrals of psychiatrists and counselors to treat their mental illnesses— trying to prevent them from becoming suicidal in the first place. The volunteers also help those who are on the edge of a bridge, ready to jump.
An article in last week's Time magazine followed the operators at the 24/7 LifeNet hotline in New York City, which is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And these volunteers are not just twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the phone to ring. According to the Time magazine article, the National Suicide Prevention line is expected to receive 1.2 million calls this year. That's more than 3,000 calls a day! And each year the number of calls rise by about 15 percent.
Founding Director John Draper, PhD, told Time, "If your calls are increasing, does that mean more people are in distress? … That's not necessarily true. It means more people may have been in distress all along but didn't know this resource was there."
I think for many people who are suffering from depression, just having someone to talk to can be life saving. Someone who won't turn them away. Someone who won't ever tell them, "Just get over it." I know a man who said he was considering suicide. And when he was about to do it, a friend called him. She told him, for some reason, she felt like she needed to call him and that he needed her.
That one call saved his life.
But some people aren't that lucky to have someone call when they need it most. I think it is comforting to know though that there are people out there who are there when you need them most — waiting for your call and waiting to help you. You don't even know them but they care about you enough to want, more than anything, to save your life.
If you are considering suicide or are looking for help, call 1-800-273-TALK and you will be routed to the call center closest to you.