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What It Means to Work at the Veterans Crisis Line

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

What does it mean to be a Crisis Responder at the Veterans Crisis Line?

It means having an honest dialogue with people. It means talking openly about trauma, addiction, suicide, homicide, rape, abuse, homelessness, mental illness, poverty, sexual deviance, criminal activity, racism, sexism, aging, illness, gay marriage, religious freedoms, euthanasia, financial issues, issues related to military combat, gender identity — among other topics. It means discussing these matters in the complete absence of judgment and over a phone line instead of in-person.

It means early mornings, late nights and  sometimes going to sleep on a cold night thinking about the caller you had that was sleeping in his/her car and finding out that they have died from hypothermia while you slept in a warm bed. It means understanding that someone you may have helped earlier has now died from jumping in front of a train or hanging himself in the woods or shot himself in the parking lot.

It means no longer finding it strange when people talk to themselves, or talk to people you cannot see. It means that a person who utilizes self-destructive behavior by cutting to feel does not surprise you. It means building meaningful connections with resilient and actually fascinating individuals. It means the precious opportunity to learn from people that may be very different than you. It means experiencing the struggle with someone who so generously trusts you over the phone without knowing you from a can of beans. It means sitting quietly, listening to someone in a moment of hardship and realizing that you do not need words to feel someone’s intense gratitude for your being there on the phone with them.

It means being a vessel for someone’s possible first step into recovery. It means being a voice for those who may not be able to speak for themselves in a time of crisis. It means learning to treasure success, however small. It means constantly seeking to uncover the inherent strength of others we speak with. It means always keeping faith and never giving up hope. 

That’s what being a Crisis Responder means to me.

— Rob

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. Or send a text message to 838255.

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