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Strike a Chord: Lifeline Workers Support Callers - and Each Other

Strike a Chord: Lifeline Workers Support Callers - and Each Other
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Taking phone calls at four in the morning isn't glamorous, but sometimes, it's necessary. As part of WFUV's Strike a Chord campaign on teen suicide prevention, Jeff Coltin talks to someone who's done just that.

Work on a suicide hotline can be difficult.

"It takes a very specific kind of person to take crisis calls and do crisis intervention, and no one who's in that field would say that you can do that alone either," said Allyee Whaley, Crisis Services Coordinator for the Trevor Project.

Luckily for many, Whaley is that specific kind of person. The Trevor Project runs a national suicide lifeline for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning youth, and Whaley took calls on the line for years. LGBT young people are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, so Whaley said it's important to provide a safe space.

"Just being able to take the stigma away from suicide and be like 'have you been thinking about it?' and if they say 'yeah I have but I don't want to do it,' you open up that space for them to not feel like it's not okay to ask for help or it's not okay to talk about what they're feeling," she said in an interview at the Trevor Project's office.

But in a high-stress environment, lifeline volunteers also need support. That means late-night pizza orders and lots of holiday parties. Most importantly, Whaley said there are always other people around when they take calls, even at 4 in the morning. It ensures the volunteers don't take the stress home with them.

"By getting off that phone and being like 'hey, this was hard for me,' and having everyone around you just listen - and we obviously are great listeners and equipped for tools with support - to just talk about it and let it go, it's a really easy way to just brush your shoulders off," she said. "And I don't think many people have a difficult time beyond that, beyond the shift."

Whaley said the lifeline's helped build some life-long friendships.

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See our other stories in the Strike a Chord series here:

Thursday: Does Bullying Cause Suicide?

Wednesday:What's a School to Do?

Tuesday: Remembering a Friend Through a Life of Prevention

Monday:Girls Share a Precious Time After School

Tumblr: Strike a Chord: Teen Suicide Prevention

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