National Suicide Prevention Lifeline training

- When someone calls the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a trained counselor will answer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The volunteers answer the business phones, they provide the crisis-intervention counseling," said Theresa Buhse, the associate executive director of the Long Island Crisis Center. "They go through a 9-month training."

She started as a volunteer counselor 25 years ago. Now she is responsible for training and overseeing them. The rigorous 9-month process requires about 250 hours of hands-on learning. 

"They're getting classroom training and they're listening in on actual calls," Buhse said.

In 2016, the Long Island Crisis Center received 12,000 calls. That number increased to 14,000 in 2017.

People who die by suicide don't really want to die. What they really want is an end to their pain."  —Theresa Buhse, Long Island Crisis Center

While Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain reignited the discussion of suicide, Buhse said the center has been dealing with this for decades.

"A lot of times, especially with suicide calls, what happens is people have black-and-white thinking. They feel like they're just trapped in a box and there's no way out," Buhse said. "People who die by suicide don't really want to die. What they really want is an end to their pain."

Nearly 100 counselors are trained to answer phones. They listen for cues to determine a caller's risk level.

Rachel Schwartz, a volunteer counselor, said that leaving any judgments aside is very important.

"If the roles were reversed, do you want someone else to come to you for help?" she said.

Since the celebrity suicides, the Long Island Crisis Center has received double the number of calls on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The majority of them were from people concerned about loved ones.

"If you notice that somebody is off and that somebody seems depressed and they're just not acting like themselves—they're isolating themselves, they're not doing things they would normally do, go up to them, tell them what you see," Buhse said. "Ask them if you can get them any kind of help. It's important."

Anyone who needs help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You will be transferred to the crisis center nearest you. The calls are free and confidential.

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