If you’re wondering how much do suicide hotline workers make an hour, the answer is a lot less than you might expect. But that’s because crisis counselors are more than just employees—they’re volunteers who have gone through extensive training. “If you’re talking to a person who’s in a mental health crisis, you need someone to listen and to help connect them to resources,” says Nijah Slaughter, who works at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
The first thing that happens when you call the Lifeline is that your call gets sent to a crisis center in your area. Then, you’ll speak with a staff member, professional, or volunteer who’s answered hundreds of calls before. “They know the resources in your community,” Sinwelski explains, and they’re trained to talk comfortably, listen actively, and assess risk.
Depending on your situation, the end goal of the conversation may be to create an action plan. Marta Waris, who used to work for Crisis Text Line, notes that sometimes the goal is simply to have a person tell their story and feel validated.
Another important part of the conversation is to help the person find a friend or family member who can provide support. And the crisis counselor will brainstorm other ways to get help, such as reaching out to a religious leader or finding local support groups. For some people, the idea of reaching out for help is enough to keep them from taking their own lives.