On the line

A man stood on the side of the road, watching cars and busses and trucks go by.

He thought of his kids. And he thought of the custody problems.

He thought of his life. And he thought of running through traffic to end it.

Standing on the side of the road, he picked up his phone.

Melanie Roberts, then an intern at Provident Life Crisis Services, answered his call to their crisis line. She talked him down from his escalated state, going through each of his problems to sort out his thoughts and ease some weight off his shoulders. Eighty hours of training, according to Elizabeth Mtoushek, crisis intervention team lead at Provident, was what prepared Roberts to save a life through a phone.

“I’m not going to lie, when you get intense calls like that, your adrenaline definitely starts going,” Roberts said. “You’ve got to be thinking on your toes about how to de-escalate this because you don’t really have a second to sit back and think about it. The best way to help these people [is] to just picture yourself in their shoes. Think about the hardships they’ve been through.”

While there’s a life hanging onto one end of the phone, there’s another human operating the line on the other. Roberts said she got used to wiping her mind clean before a call, that a blank, neutral slate was the best way to help a suicidal caller. According to her and Mtoushek, being a part of a crisis line and helping people out of their darkest states are moments that they can apply to the rest of their lives. That is, as long as people call them in the first place.

Twenty-two percent (55/250) of KHS students would consider calling a suicide hotline if they felt actively suicidal. Ceci Bodet, emotional support counselor, believes students often either minimize their struggles or think asking for help will cause more problems, making them less likely to reach out to crisis lines.

Sometimes kids are so worried about talking to their parents that a hotline can help with that,” Bodet said. “Kids often underestimate what they are going through. I think a lot of times, kids don’t want adults involved, [and] want parents involved at all, but [they’re] kids and minors and [they] need the help sometimes. If that’s what we have to do and if [they] get pissed off, I’d much rather [them] be pissed off than dead. And that’s the reality, unfortunately, for a lot of kids.”

Bodet said she thinks suicide hotlines are underutilized by students. By Provident being transparent with what goes on on the other end of the phone, Mtoushek said people, minors especially, may be less hesitant to call.

“Everybody has their own stuff, and I think that if one simple phone call can help someone feel better, why not?” Bodet said. “There are always people available to help, no matter what time of day, no matter what time of week.”

After the phone call with the man questioning his life, Roberts said she took time to process and see that those intense calls were some of the most rewarding experiences she’s had. For anyone in crisis living in the St. Louis area, help is available and Provident is just one phone call away.

“When we’re in crisis, our brains just don’t work right and we forget things that would normally be very apparent,” Mtoushek said. “So we help them find the hope that’s already inside themselves. It’s not that it’s gone. It’s just that they’re struggling to notice it right now, and we try to guide people toward that.”