Tuesday, June 18

Utah County Crisis Line

I got a new home teaching assignment with my younger brother two weeks ago. We met with one woman who is passionate about mental health counseling and mentioned that she had tried volunteering with the Utah County Crisis Line. I've wanted to see how the crisis line works for a while... and recently felt pushed to actually go apply to be a volunteer. The woman we home teach mentioned that it hadn't been a good fit for her... and I found myself wondering why. (As a side, she's helping with a research project on depression and religiosity and they need more participants; there's a short, anonymous survey at lds.co/d where any of you with diagnosed depressive disorders could help with their data collection)

I went to my first training meeting last night. It started out how I had expected - taking about the issues of people in crisis, methodologies for helping them find peace and reduce stress from acute problems, outlines for resources that are available in the community.

And then we got to the section called "Boundaries"... and it was like I had walked into a brick wall. Two-thirds down the page it said, "Don't share any information about your own life. If people ask, say, 'We're here to talk about you, not me.'"

I can understand a need for anonymity. It was something I safeguarded for years. But when I talked with real people, I always shared my real story. When they called me to ask for advice, I could think of stories and experiences that helped them realize that someone cared and had been through similar experiences. And at the Crisis Line, that's not what they do.

One of the volunteers who's been there for a while said something after that made me think. "Who you are is your superpower. What are you going to do without it?" (I mentioned (G)MG and my experiences helping others as one of the reasons I wanted to volunteer)

I don't know what I'm going to do. If someone calls and is suicidal because they are severely depressed, have same-gender attraction, and are going through a crisis of faith, I don't know that I'll be able to just listen without feeling like I'm lying on the phone... or withholding something that may be far more useful than a list of community resources and half an hour on the phone with a nameless, anonymous listener.

People call me to call me. People call the crisis line to call the crisis line. But somewhere in my heart, I believe that they have the same motivations - not just looking for someone to listen, but someone to listen who can understand what's happening from personal experience, and maybe say something that will give hope or perspective or anything in darkness.

Crisis Line does amazing things - things that, perhaps because it is an institution, are out of reach for individuals on their own. They make a huge difference in the lives of people each day. I just find myself wondering. Maybe this will be the impetus to start my own version of a crisis line. 

I've realized that the home teaching and visiting teaching programs of the Church are designed to take the place that Crisis Line does for some people. The problems that are too big to solve on your own, but don't need the help of your bishop... except for the issue of shame. People who have problems or concerns that they see as shameful (regardless of actual cultural views) are less likely to approach people they know... hence the need for people on the outside who can bridge the gap. If we could eliminate shame, then home and visiting teachers would be perfect. Ideally, that would happen. Practically, it doesn't make sense to assume it will. So maybe this will give me some of the pieces to put together.

Either way, it'll be a good learning experience. And helping people in crisis is never a bad thing.


  1. I can so relate to your feelings about not being allowed to chare your personal experieces. I think there are different kinds of people, some can hold back and some can not. It's a little like with Santa, many in the church make their children believe that he is real, when they are small, because it's kind of nice, but I never could. I mean how could I lie to them about Santa and them expect them to believe me when I say God is real? It's much more about my own feelings that if children actually can make the difference. We are different as human beings and there are a place for us all, but not exactly the same place, we just have to find the place where we can do the most difference.

    1. I understand your perspective on Santa. As a Mom, if we approach it as we are 'playing pretend' then I think it doesn't come off as a lie. Kids play pretend with their toys :)

  2. Hmmm... your in-the-trenches background helping people in crisis. Your personal experiences surviving suicidal depression and even abuse. Living a positive life while dealing with same gender attraction and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Combined with your diverse education and exceptional problem solving skills. If there is a need out there for a more personalized or innovative crisis line, sounds like you would be the guy to develop it. But you can't man all the phones... which means you would have to come up with concepts and a methodology for training everyone else to be as effective as you. Or at least in the ballpark. If you were to decide this is your mission for the next while, you seem uniquely suited for it.

    And with that highly focused, problem solving mind of yours, you could even develop a more effective, practical, and economical Phase 2 than what is probably currently available. A rehabilitation program for helping the people whose lives just got saved by crisis intervention stay out of crisis and live more healthy and hopeful lives.

  3. I can totally understand how you must be feeling, because I know that I would also have a great inclination to tell some of 'my' experiences in an effort to show someone that I understand and genuinely care.

    And, I confess (and my readers have probably noticed) that I do tend to 'enjoy' telling my stuff (experiences - feelings - beliefs - ideas, etc).

    But, I think that there is definitely a way to show others you understand and care w/o sharing 'YOUR stuff'.

    I learned this through a couple of my brutally honest children, who, when teenagers, would occasionally stop me when I was attempting to show them that I understand their problems by relating my own past experiences, and they would literally say...."But Mom - this is not about you". ~~~ lol

    Sometimes their comments were hard to take (especially when I was deep into a really great story - about me and my life - and had not yet got to the best part), but I am grateful that they felt comfortable enough in our relationship to express their needs to me and literally 'teach' me the best way to teach, and comfort, and help them. When in crisis, they clearly needed the discussion to be completely about them - and that's ok.

    My mother used to always say..."Unsolicited advice falls on deaf ears" - so if the procedures of the crisis line are to abstain from sharing your own 'stuff', I'm sure they know what's best as they are certainly EXPERTS at what they do.

    I'd recommend that you submit to and follow their guidelines, and I'll bet that you will find that you have great wisdom, insights, and an ability to help those in crisis, even without sharing your own personal 'stuff'.

    The person you have become, because of your stuff, is someone who is understanding, caring, compassionate, with a great desire to help others. You CAN help others just by being YOU, and who YOU are, especially your sweet spirit, will come through (over the phone)without you even verbally telling the person about you.

    You won't have to 'say it' because they will be able to 'feel it'. And the Lord will bless you to know what to say that will be of comfort to those in desperate need of a listening ear.

    I think you're a pretty special guy, and your intentions are good; you do have alot to offer and I think the spirit is guiding and inspiring you to do great things, so just roll with it ~~~~ :D


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