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The Short Version: Need someone to talk to? Headquarters Counseling Center is available 24/7 to counsel people in crisis; all you have to do is call (785) 841-2345 to get in touch with highly trained counselors. Based in Kansas, this team runs a free suicide prevention hotline for anyone feeling lost, afraid, or hopeless. People of all ages reach out to the team at all hours of the day in search of guidance and, sometimes, a reason to live. Headquarters Counseling Center fields around 20,000 calls per year and offers unconditional support to individuals and loved ones facing personal challenges. The center’s resources direct people to the help they need to pick themselves up and move forward with their lives. Whether you’re battling a mental illness or worried about losing someone in your life, you can rely on Headquarters Counseling Center to be there to listen to your struggles and offer encouragement and advice.
In 2016, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and the second leading cause of death for people between 10 and 34 years old. The total number of suicides (44,965) was more than double the number of homicides (19,362) in the US that year.
This is an epidemic impacting individuals and families across the country. Yet many people don’t know how to talk about suicide or where to turn to for help when they or someone they love are experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Help is out there, though. Anyone can call 1-800-273-8255 to receive free and confidential crisis counseling from the Headquarters Counseling Center or their local crisis center. This line is open 24/7 to anyone who needs someone to listen to them without judgment.
Based in Lawrence, Kansas, Headquarters Counseling Center provides free suicide prevention services, including counseling, education, online chat, and other resources. Whether you’re feeling depressed or you’re worried about someone in your life attempting suicide, you can contact Headquarters Counseling Center to receive steadfast emotional support through challenging times.
“Our main goal is to keep everyone safe,” said Kristin Vernon, Director of Counseling Services. “We’re here to reach out to people in crisis and let them know there are so many resources out there to help them.”
Headquarters Counseling Center originally opened as a drug crisis center for teens and young adults in Lawrence, Kansas. The center opened its doors in 1969 as a safe haven for young people in the community.
Three Kansas University students started the nonprofit to provide information about drug abuse and shelter drug users who were having a bad trip.
“They have been there for me when times were tough.” — Sean Patrick Sullivan in a Facebook review
Over the years, the center’s mission evolved to support other people in crisis. In 1985, Headquarters Counseling Center became involved in counseling individuals who had threatened self-harm. Today, it’s the leading suicide prevention center in the state of Kansas. This nonprofit’s resources have helped thousands of individuals see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Headquarters Counseling Center relies primarily on donations to keep its operations running and provide meaningful support for people in crisis. If you want to support this cause, you can make a donation to the center or become one of its trained volunteers.
“The amazing thing about Headquarters is it has always been volunteers doing a lion’s share of the work,” Kristin said. “They go through around 100 hours of training and donate their time because they want to help.”
The main focus of Headquarters Counseling Center is its 24/7 suicide prevention hotline. This is literally a life-saving resource for people, so the team makes sure it’s fully staffed by individuals trained to talk to people in crisis. A team of 45 volunteers and four full-time staff members stay by the phones in four- and eight-hour shifts.
“It’s a really good resource for people feeling concerned for a loved one or for themselves,” Kristin said. “We try really hard to be available to talk to someone as long as they need.”
The team fields approximately 20,000 calls per year. Volunteers must go through extensive training sessions before being allowed to answer the phones and counsel potentially suicidal individuals. People of all ages and backgrounds reach out to Headquarters Counseling Center when they feel like they have nowhere else to turn. They call in because they want to talk, and it’s the team member’s job to listen with patience and compassion.
“We sit next to someone in pain,” Kristin said. “Because a lot of the time suicide isn’t about dying — it’s about not being in pain anymore.”
Sometimes a person will contact the organization to say a particular call on a particular day saved his or her life. Every time they receive such a positive testimonial, the Headquarters team shares it on a private volunteer messaging system.
The volunteers love to see evidence of the difference they’re making in people’s lives, and they celebrate every life that’s continued because someone was there to say, “It’s going to be all right.”
Not everyone who turns to Headquarters Counseling Center is seeking help for themselves. Some call in because they’re worried about a loved one. Oftentimes a significant other is the first to recognize signs of depression and notice that something is off.
“We take a lot of calls from people worried about someone in their lives,” Kristin said. “Our biggest piece of advice to them is to be direct and talk about it.”
Kristin said there’s no harm in straight-up asking, “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” Approaching the conversation in a direct and respectful way lets the other person know it’s OK to talk about his or her feelings. It’s better to get everything out in the open, so you can make a plan for how to move forward.
Loved ones should be prepared to listen with open hearts. A lot of the time people in crisis want to feel heard, and the most helpful thing you can do is listen to them.
“It’s basically all about sitting next to someone while they tell their story — however dark it is,” Kristin said. “You have to be able listen to them and then express love and concern.”
Kristin’s last piece of advice for loved ones dealing with a crisis situation is not to leave the person alone until they’ve gotten help or resolved the situation. If you believe there’s a chance that person will attempt suicide, you should stay put and call professional assistance. There are over 160 national suicide centers in the country — including Headquarters Counseling Center — so you never have to face such a painful situation by yourself.
Looking to the future, Headquarters Counseling Center aims to reach out to members of the rural community in Kansas and generally raise awareness about suicide in the US. The team also hopes to start a peer-to-peer line for teens because young people often feel uncomfortable talking to adults about their problems and feelings — they’d rather open up to someone their own age. Kristin believes a teen-only help line could be a great resource for Kansas’ youth.
In the meantime, the team of staff members and volunteers will continue manning the phones and listening to people who could use a friend.
“We listen, and we look for their reasons to stay. That’s what all crisis centers do,” Kristin said. “To hear that somebody is OK and feeling better and moving forward is a huge relief and really gratifying to our team.”