Guest post by Elizabeth Sweezey Morrell.
The end of the year can be a rough time for many people. Days are shorter and darker; nights are longer. In colder weather, people are less inclined to go out and some struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Spending the holidays alone can feel isolating, and traveling to see loved ones can be stressful. Some see the end of the year as a time for self-reflection, leading to feelings of regret, inadequacy or inferiority.
Here at Crisis Text Line, we see these feelings first hand. In December 2017, we witnessed some of our busiest days ever, with almost 6 million messages exchanged with people in crisis. That’s over double the population of the city of Chicago. For our volunteer Crisis Counselors (CCs), the holidays are an extra special time to support people in pain.
Crises During the Holidays are Different
How is volunteering with Crisis Text Line different during the holidays?
1. More diverse groups of people are reaching out for help.
“I feel supported. I am older but have struggled for many years. I know what I need to do. I just need help getting there. You provided that help.” —Texter
Our crisis trends show people of color text us significantly more often during the holiday season. The biggest increases occur among Black (+13%) and Middle Eastern (+12%) identifying texters. Another large increase comes from transgender and genderqueer/gender non-conforming texters.
2. The issues people face around the holidays are unique.
“I just needed to not feel alone. Thank you for being there.” —Texter
The holiday season brings up a lot of thoughts about family. For some, that can be a serious stressor. On Thanksgiving last year, conversations about family issues spiked by 25% and conversations about self-harm spiked 30%. As the end of the year approaches, we typically see higher rates of depression and loneliness.
Helping People in Need During the Holiday Season
So how can you help? After all, the holidays are focused on spreading joy to our fellow community members and supporting those in need.
It may seem daunting to take on a new volunteer opportunity as the year is ending. But the truth is, the holiday season is the perfect time to start volunteering as a Crisis Counselor. Check out these three reasons why:
1. Our crisis counseling can be done completely from home.
“We’re literally saving lives, and in the most convenient setting possible.” —Cassidy W., Crisis Counselor
Need a break from the chaos of being home with loved ones? Sign up and complete a couple of hours of training to qualify. Training is self-paced, completely online and available 24/7, meaning you can learn from anywhere with a reliable Internet connection. If you’re traveling to new time zones or staying up later than usual, you can still learn the skills required to help those in need.
2. The skills you learn as a Crisis Counselor can be applied to every part of your life.
“I’ve learned to be more patient and understanding when it comes to talking to people. It can be so easy in this day and age to rush through conversations or give minimal responses. I think being here has shown me that taking the time to listen to what people are saying helps in nearly all communication situations.” —Bethany R., Crisis Counselor
We believe that anyone can learn to support people in a crisis (no clinical degree necessary!). Our training is based around empathetic listening and collaborative problem solving and can help improve communication in all aspects of your life, including your career. Research by the World Economic Forum suggests that by 2020, emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 skills needed to compete successfully in the workplace.
3. It feels good to help people.
“The best thing about being a CC is feeling like I matter.” —Becca W., Crisis Counselor
Our system allows texters to send a final note to their CC after the conversation and, overwhelmingly, we hear about how we’re changing people’s lives for the better. We live for this feedback — we even have a mural in our office dedicated to it. And it’s not just the texters’ lives that are changing. Our CCs repeatedly say their work gives them a sense of purpose. In helping others, so many of our volunteers are able to find themselves.
Interested in changing lives? Check out our website to start your application. You can be the conversation that saves someone’s life.
Author Bio: Elizabeth Sweezey Morrell is the Recruitment and Admissions Manager at Crisis Text Line. Before that, she was a Crisis Counselor Coach for nearly 2 years, training and supporting volunteers. Prior to joining Crisis Text Line, she was a volunteer with the organization for a year and she still volunteers today to help texters in crisis go from their hot moment to a cool calm.