When Leesburg resident Heather Kane became a stay-at-home Mom, she did not want to give up Crisis Link.
In 2000, Kane began volunteering a three-hour shift each week at the listening center and now is one of three volunteers from Loudoun County. Crisis Link, a regional crisis and suicide hotline, has 80 volunteers with another 20 volunteers starting a 45-hour training session this week.
"This one has put a large spot in my heart," Kane said about the program. She served as director of volunteers, recruiting and training hotline listeners in 2000 until she left her paid position to care for her now 18-month-old son and became a volunteer. "I like most of all being able to be there for people, giving back to the community and being able to help someone and be there for them when they need it," she said.
Volunteers like Kane are the spokespeople for Crisis Link, said Stacy Brooks, development director for Crisis Link. "We haven’t been able to get much funding to promote outside Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria," she said.
TWO GRANTS will help Crisis Link expand outreach efforts in Loudoun and in schools in the Northern Virginia area. In May, the Loudoun United Way awarded Crisis Link with a $1,000 grant that will be used to send out informational materials to businesses and other organizations and to encourage them to underwrite key tags for distribution in the county’s schools, libraries, recreation centers and other locations.
"Hopefully, it’s the start to doing more out there and being more visible," Brooks said.
The state gave Crisis Link a $5,000 grant in May to provide suicide prevention outreach to Northern Virginia students through advertising, distributing program posters in schools and promoting the availability of suicide prevention training. Crisis Link staff members visit schools to offer the training and workshops to inform students about depression, suicide and suicide prevention, including what signs to look for if someone is depressed or suicidal and the steps to take to provide the needed help.
CRISIS LINK, which started in Arlington in 1969 and is still based there, serves the larger Northern Virginia area, specifically Loudoun, Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington and Prince William counties, and Washington, D.C. The organization is the regional provider of the national 800-suicide hotline and provides crisis response and debriefings during crises and catastrophes such as the Sept. 11 national crisis.
"We have a lot of teen callers, and a lot of teens out there depend on our service to help them," Brooks said, adding that 18 percent of callers are teenagers. "We really stress helping young people live better lives."
The volunteers are available to help youth and adults in crisis situations and to provide suicide interventions, along with providing information and referrals. The volunteers are trained in Rogerian listening, an active and reflective type of listening aimed to help callers help themselves and answer their own questions without providing feedback and passing judgment.
"The volunteers are there to provide an empathetic and listening ear," Brooks said.
Kane said, "It gives you the opportunity to be that person in their life at that moment that makes a big difference for them."
In addition to the volunteers, Crisis Link has five full-time and three part-time staff members and three part-time crisis hotline workers on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. "We are definitely trying to recruit more volunteers," Brooks said.