OAKTON, Va. (WDVM) — “We’re good at what we do. Our community relies on us and we’re always there to respond to the need,” said Laura Mayer, program director for PRS Crisis Link. In 2018, the nonprofit’s volunteers and full-time staff answered 2.2 million phone calls from people in crisis.
While they picked up the phone eventually, many people who call suicide prevention hotlines face long waits until someone is available to talk. “The reality, is there aren’t enough crisis centers and there aren’t enough people answering the phones,” said Mayer. “So a lot of people get on hold for a minute, two minutes…unfortunately, some people experience really long wait times depending on how many times that call has rolled to another center.”
When a person in crisis dials 1-800-273-TALK, they’re routed to their local crisis center, depending on their phone number. If that center is at capacity, their call is routed to a national backup center.
As of this week, PRS is one of those backup centers, thanks to two national grants it applied for. It anticipates it will double the amount of calls it answers per month to about 8,000 calls.
The grants will fund 30 more full-time staff members. PRS is also looking for more volunteers. “You can come in here with any experience with a desire to help others and we can train you to do that,” said Mayer.
Crisis workers receive more than 60 hours of extensive training and must be at least 21-years-old.
Mayer says the funds are a nod in the right direction in recognizing that mental health crises are as important as medical ones.
“If we think about it in terms of 9-1-1…” said Mayer, “if you call 9-1-1 because somebody in your life or you are experiencing a medical emergency, the thought of being put on hold is catastrophic. It could mean life or death in some situations. It’s the same thing for people in mental health crises for people who are considering suicide.”
Information about suicide (from prsinc.org):
Teen Suicide Awareness Flyer
Use this information to be on alert for signs that a youth may be having thoughts about suicide–the symptoms are somewhat different in comparison to signs exhibited by adults. Be sure to also read ‘Ways to Help Someone in Suicidal Crisis’ for tips and ideas on how to seek support for someone you care about.
Suicide Warning Signs
Use this information to help identify if an adult may be having thoughts about suicide. Be sure to also read ‘Ways to Help Someone in Suicidal Crisis’ for tips and ideas on how to seek support for someone you care about.
Ways to Help Someone in Suicidal Crisis
When someone you care about is having thoughts of suicide, there are ways to help. Seek support so that someone you care about can stay safe from suicidal behavior during a crisis.
Survivor of Suicide Grief Recovery Resource Packet
When you or someone you know has lost someone to suicide there are resources for coping. You aren’t alone and there are resources available.
Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia
Span – the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia – is a regional coalition of the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax-Falls Church, Loudoun, and Prince William Community Services Boards (CSBs) and other groups in Northern Virginia, all working together to raise awareness and share resources to prevent suicide.