I’ll drown in the water if I listen

(Head Underwater–Flyleaf)

After volunteering at a counseling center* for about a year and a half, I have now fielded my first semi-crisis call…and because, of course, just my luck, I could not find the behavioral health emergency line phone numbers that I know I should probably offer…I did get as far as knowing to definitely not promise an appointment tomorrow although I couldn’t come up with the words “we are not a crisis agency” until after I hung up…but I think I got the important information out and did a good job…a lot better than the first few times I ever answered the phones there and stumbled through figuring out to identify where people had called, who I was…you know, all the things I should have learned way back when I was little and we practiced phone skills by calling daddy at work…those skills I should have remembered and developed with friends in middle and high school…those skills that I had nearly completely lost by college because the phone was the thing in the world I was most scared of, and mine was often turned off for days at a time because I’d forget about it since I had no use for it…

The voices in my head say I failed because I didn’t offer any other resources and because now my friend has to either call the person back or make sure someone else calls her back today…but I didn’t fail…I got enough information to make a call back possible, and at least to me if someone asks for a very specific time the next day then it probably at least isn’t an immediate crisis…I kinda thought about offering a link to crisischat since I didn’t have the a phone number to give the person…but sometimes IDK if it really is a good resource, because it does have potential, but there are just a couple issues…First, that sometimes it is pretty much immediate but other times there can be a multi-hour wait for someone to chat with…and that I do not know the quality of the person on the other side of the screen…I did it twice a little over a year ago, and one of the people I got was really incredible and helped me to sort through all the things going on to figure out what was the real problem, but the other one was pretty useless…so that makes it in my experience a fifty-fifty chance of being good, and in my opinion that is lousy odds if someone is really and truly in crisis…not gonna lie, although it is called crisischat, some of the survey options are for things that don’t really fall into the realm of crisis…I was not suicidal when I used the resource…which perhaps is why a few times I gave up after waiting for hours, because I really don’t know if they screen the surveys to get the most desperate people in first or if it just was busy and they go in the order that the surveys are received…

It was a good reminder though that I should probably ask about some policy changes, because I realized that there are a few things that have changed since last spring, and it would probs be a good idea for me to know, for example, what the new policy is for registration for example…’cause the two questions I have gotten most often in the past are people wanting to register, and people wanting to leave a message for their counselor…I still know how to do the latter of those things, but the former is something that seems to have changed…and obviously I am going to need to find the phone # for the crisis line…

*I should probably clarify that I have not suddenly forgotten that I am in pharmacy school…I still think that I have too much time committed with school to be able to take on seeing clients as a lay counselor, but everyone needs a break once in a while, so I volunteer there but I only do stuff like make copies for counselors, answer phones, shred stuff, and other tasks that it won’t be a really big deal if I have to take a week off for an event at school…so I might answer the phone and talk to clients, but I do not actually officially counsel anyone…it works well for me to have a role that is important but not so important to inhibit me from a day off…


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