Local crisis hotline organization holds volunteer training

Volunteer: ‘You might be all that person has'

EAST SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - Thousands upon thousands of crisis calls are incoming at Contact Community Services in East Syracuse.

The organization received more than 65,000 calls in 2015 — that’s up by 10,000 more calls from the previous year.

Hotline volunteer training sessions will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Friday, Jan. 22, through Sunday, Jan. 24, at the Contact office.

Find more information on the training and register here.

When the phone rings, 24 hours a day, volunteers at Contact know it could be a lifeline for the caller on the line.

“It's not just watching a PowerPoint or reading the manual,” explained Kristine Knutson, program manager for volunteer relations. “It's actively getting people in there and having them ask those tough questions.”

Knutson says a crucial part of the volunteer training includes teaching active listening skills and also role-playing.

“It's actively getting people in there and having them ask those tough questions,” Knutson said. “‘Are you thinking about killing yourself? Do you mean suicide when you say that?’ They're comfortable with it and when it comes down to talking to a real caller, they're prepared.”

For people who are upset, depressed, dealing with a difficult situation or even suicidal, picking up the phone to make a call might not be their first option, but they can go online and use Crisis Chat to talk to one to the volunteers.

Contact volunteers also make outbound calls through TeleCare, which provides medication reminders to people who live alone.

TeleCare also serves as an emotional support or a “social call” because that might be the daily only interaction that person receives.

Since Contact takes turns fielding national calls, the East Syracuse location could receive calls from anywhere in the country.

Just last November, it was a local volunteer who was on Crisis Chat when an Iowa woman reached out because she was ready to take her own life.

From the Crisis Chat: transcript

Anthony:  "It seems like you are questioning if it will work. That sounds pretty serious. I am wondering if you have your mind made up on this or not.

Anonymous: “I have. I don't want to be here anymore, I wish someone could just do it for me.”

In this case, the volunteer contacted police during the chat and they were on scene before the end of their conversation.

The Crisis Chat saved her life.

“Your work, your volunteer work is not in vain, people really appreciate it,” shared Kristin Losier, a Contact Hotline volunteer. “You're helping some people get through some really heavy stuff. As a personal note, it really gives you a sense of fulfillment.”

Losier, a social work student at Onondaga Community College, has been a volunteer for six months.

She says she felt drawn to the cause and that she wanted to become a volunteer after she completed her internship.

“You’re doing good for other people,” Losier said. “You’re showing love to other people. You’re showing genuine concern and kindness to other people. Sometimes, you might be all that person has.”

Contact provides the hotline and chat as a free service to people in crisis.

The organization depends on volunteers to help provide 24-hour services.

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