Save Lives From Home as a Crisis Hotline Volunteer!

Want to help people most in need? This role may be perfect for you!


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One of the downsides of working from home is feeling disconnected from the community. In an on-site work environment peers and colleagues are all around you, and every trip to the coffee maker is an opportunity for social interaction. Unless you have a work-from-home buddy, the homemade brew is usually not accompanied by adult social contact. One way to alleviate this relative isolation without leaving the comfort of your home is to volunteer at crisis hotlines. If you're interested in careers in the mental health field, volunteering at a crisis hotline is also an excellent way to build relevant experience.

Every hotline volunteer receives specific training from their host organization. They are also given additional resources to aid callers. Still, this is not a job for the faint of heart. In every case, callers are people who feel they are in crisis and are reaching out for help. Hotline volunteers need to be emotionally stable, accepting of lifestyle differences and genuinely interested in helping those in crisis. Having amazing listening skills won't hurt either.

Many organizations that offer crisis hotline services require on-site training and are thus regionally based. Others concentrate on a national population, provide training online and accept volunteers from throughout the country they serve. A list of several organizations that take volunteers from more than one location is listed below. For local opportunities, take to the internet. You are sure to find the perfect fit based on your interests and availability. Here are few examples of hotlines that depend on volunteers to help callers.

Suicide Prevention Hotlines

Suicide is often considered a young person's ailment. Though it is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-24, this is only because people of this age group are much less likely to die of other causes. In 2015, people aged 45-64 had the highest suicide rate, with those 85 or older just behind.[1]

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Suicidal ideations attack at different times, and for various reasons. It is not an ailment belonging to only one age group and may be triggered by complex combinations of factors. Young people have been known to commit suicide over bullying or low grades - issues that older people might see as frivolous. An important part of working with depressed people is empathy. If you can't empathize with a twelve-year-old girl contemplating suicide over a less-than-stellar grade in geometry, then this isn't the job for you.

Volunteers also need to be able to console people with more universally compelling reasons for contemplating suicide. So many older people experience social isolation and loneliness. Sometimes people just need someone to talk to, but volunteers should also be aware of the real risk that callers could act upon their thoughts. Though each suicide prevention organization and volunteer corps operate in their unique way, organizations always provide training for volunteers.

Rape Hotlines

Sexual assault is a serious issue affecting millions of Americans, and recovery is not a short-term process. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 94 percent of women who have been the victims of rape experience post-traumatic stress. For 30 percent, these symptoms are still affecting their lives nine months later. 33 percent of female rape victims contemplate suicide and 13 percent attempt suicide.[2] Volunteers at a rape crisis hotline will be expected to listen to callers and provide comfort and advice for dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse. Volunteers are trained to provide the care that is needed or to direct callers to healthcare professionals that can better assist them.

LGBTQ Hotlines

Acceptance of varying sexual preferences has grown exponentially over the last several decades, but people of the LGBTQ communities still experience discrimination, contend with negative stereotypes and struggle to find their way in a world predominately occupied by individuals identifying as straight. Nine out of 10 LBGT youth report being bullied at school.[3] "Bullying" is a broad term, but it speaks to the discrimination these young people experience. According to US Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted in seven states, 12 to 28 percent of LBGT youth surveyed had been threatened or injured with a weapon.[4] This struggle is evident in the community's statistics.

People who identify as gay and lesbian are two to six times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals. 30 percent of gay youth have tried suicide by age 15. There is a close link between experiencing homophobic teasing and exhibiting signs of depression. At the Trevor Project, volunteers text instead of talk, though the idea is the same: volunteers spend time consoling people in crises. Personally identifying as a member of the LGBTQ community is not a prerequisite to volunteering, but acceptance of all people's lifestyle choices is.

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This list of hotlines is by no means exhaustive. Hotlines also exist for domestic abuse victims, teenage runaways, and people struggling with addiction or eating disorders and people with particular religious affiliations. If you have experienced a crisis in your life, consider volunteering for a hotline related to your journey. A shoulder to cry on is often a great help for people in crisis, but sometimes a story of solidarity is even more effective.

Resources

Suicide Prevention Hotlines
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/participate/
http://hopeline.com/volunteer-online/

Rape Crisis Hotlines
https://www.rainn.org/get-involved

LGBTQ Hotlines
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/volunteer
http://www.glbthotline.org/volunteer.html

Notes
3. "Gay Bullying Statistics" . BullyingStatistics.org
4. "LGBT Youth" . CDC.gov