Nonprofit is a lifeline for people in crisis

After reading recent reports of two deaths in our community at the I-5 bridge, I was moved to write a short piece, reminding readers about a homegrown resource for people navigating unfamiliar emotional territory.

The Crisis Clinic of Thurston and Mason Counties is a non-profit organization whose mission is to respond to telephone calls from persons experiencing emotional turmoil, mental health concerns, and, sometimes, financial difficulties. For more than forty years, the Crisis Clinic has provided round-the-clock crisis intervention in our area. The crisis line is (360) 586-2800.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should start by saying that I became involved with the Crisis Clinic more than a year ago, first going through mandatory training for volunteers staffing the telephone lines. Later, I joined the organization’s board of directors. In that sense, I became one of a long line of volunteers who have devoted their energies to this unique community resource.

Why do we do it?

The short answer is that we believe that crisis intervention makes a difference to individuals and to our community as a whole.

We believe that encouraging people to talk about their personal struggles, and listening to what they have to say, can help them to work through their emotional pain. This approach is different than simply making referrals to other social service agencies, although we do that, too. Talking about difficult subjects can provide relief in a safe setting, which may lead to paths forward.

Problems don't always arise from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That's why the Crisis Clinic offers 24-hour crisis intervention.

Disaster can strike anyone, rich or poor, young or old, whether they appear to be successful on the surface or not. That’s why the crisis intervention we provide to callers is free.

Anonymity allows people to express themselves openly, without feeling judged. The people who staff the crisis lines listen, without imposing their own values on callers.

Helping callers in crisis makes a positive -- and sometimes crucial -- difference in real people's lives. Problems do not seem insurmountable when a caring person is listening.

The Crisis Clinic relies on volunteers, as well as donations. In order to prepare for answering all manner of calls, volunteers receive intensive training in areas such as mental health, suicide and self-harm prevention, mandatory reporting, problem-solving, active listening and empathy, relationship violence, chemical dependency, and recognizing diverse values.

The stakes are high, and volunteers are committed to providing appropriate guidance. For those who are interested, training sessions for new volunteers are held several times a year.

In a very real sense, the Crisis Clinic provides services to people who don’t know where else to turn. Calling (360) 586-2800 can be a lifeline.

That is why we are here, listening.