The Memphis Crisis Center, the area’s free, 24/7 crisis intervention hotline for almost 50 years, is seeking volunteers to answer calls.
In the past five years, the center has handled more than 100,000 calls from Mid-Southerners suffering from all types of mental distress, said Mike LaBonte, executive director. Approximately 8,000 of those were suicide calls.
And while call volume generally goes down during the holidays, the center braces for a spike right after, when the excitement of the season fades.
“We’re a full-service crisis line,” LaBonte said. Calls come in from people dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and elder abuse, as well as financial and health issues.
“The vast majority of the calls we get are coming from people who are sad, lonely, or facing a life challenge, and what they really need is a compassionate listener to help them through the trouble they are going through at the time,” LaBonte said. “So we’re here providing not just crisis intervention, but emotional support services as well.”
The center is looking for mature, responsible, committed volunteers, who are good listeners, he said. “I always say if you’re the kind of person your family members or your friends come to in troubled times, then you might actually be somebody who would be really good for our service,” LaBonte said. “We will, of course, provide the training. I think people have to have a natural disposition toward compassion and listening, but that’s all the natural disposition they need. The rest we can train.”
Training involves approximately 40 hours, including classroom time and observation in the call center under the supervision of seasoned volunteers.
Volunteers are asked to work one shift every other week. Morning, afternoon, evening, and overnight shifts are available.
“We really have a need for early birds (7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and night owls (11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.), LaBonte said. “I know those night owls and early birds are out there. This would be a perfect opportunity for them.”
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center partners with the Memphis Crisis Center providing its call center, training facility and administrative offices on the UTHSC campus.
To volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 901-649-8572. To reach the confidential hotline, call 901-Crisis7 or 901-274-7477.