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The Short Version: People facing mental health challenges, family issues, or other emotional situations don’t always have someone to turn to in their lives. Women in abusive relationships, for instance, can feel isolated from their friends and unsure where to seek help. So many people out there are hurting, and sometimes all they need is someone they can talk to about what’s going on. Crisis Clinic is that place for individuals in the state of Washington. Since its founding in the 1960s, this nonprofit organization has opened its phone lines to people experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, domestic violence, and other personal challenges. The clinic currently runs five confidential help lines for teens and adults who are either in crisis or seeking information on how to prevent something bad from happening. Crisis Clinic offers a library of resources and supportive networks to help people find the help they need to move forward in a constructive way. Anyone can call the free 24-hour hotline at 866-4CRISIS to talk to someone trained to assist in times of turmoil.
Crisis Clinic, a nonprofit organization in Washington, was borne out of necessity in the wake of a tragedy over 50 years ago. On Aug. 1, 1963, a local letter carrier stabbed a 12-year-old girl, wounding her badly. Prior to the attack, the man had mentioned having violent feelings and impulses to others, but he hadn’t sought or gotten help from any clinical professionals. He didn’t have resources available to connect him with the treatment he needed before something terrible happened.
The parents of the wounded girl decided they need to make a change in the community and do something to prevent such an unfortunate and harmful incident from happening again. So family members, friends, and other community members united to form Crisis Clinic, which offered a 24-hour hotline for anyone in need of support or assistance. At first, the Crisis Clinic Board of Trustees answered the phone calls from their own homes or places of business, but, as the organization expanded, the clinic opened offices in King County.
Today, Crisis Clinic runs several phone lines and chat services for people in crisis. They’re there to direct individuals and loved ones to helpful resources and support groups to avert tragedies in the state of Washington. People can call the crisis help line if they’re experiencing partner violence, mental health challenges, or family issues. Crisis Clinic offers an open door and a judgment-free ear to anyone who needs it. The team is even working on building a crisis line available via text.
Lauren Rigert, Director of Development and Community Relations for Crisis Clinic, said the clinic is a statewide resource adaptable to the needs of individuals and families facing a variety of personal issues. “We talk to people having a bad day all the way to people who are considering committing suicide,” she said. “Our call lines are for anyone who needs support — anyone who needs someone to talk to in the moment.”
Crisis Clinic has five phone lines open to anyone who needs someone to talk to. Some callers have just gone through a rough break up, while others are experiencing symptoms of depression or other mental health challenges. Some callers just want information about where they can get help, resources, support, or treatment. Crisis Clinic serves all these needs with professionalism and compassion.
The primary helpline is a the 24-Hour Crisis Line (886-4-CRISIS) open at every hour of the day all year round. If a Washington resident is experiencing a difficult situation in the middle of the night, they can find someone to talk it out with in a confidential phone call. The 24-Hour Crisis Line is a free resource in times of crisis, serving individuals and loved ones dealing with heartache, mental health challenges, suicidal thoughts, and other personal difficulties.
“I take it as a sincere honor to be in a position where people open up and share the struggles with me, a stranger. The struggles are very real.” — a Crisis Clinic volunteer
Additionally, Crisis Clinic has an information line called King County 2-1-1 where locals can get comprehensive information on health and human services in Seattle and the surrounding areas. If you want a referral regarding childcare, housing, or food, simply dial 2-1-1 to speak with a resource specialist available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Washington Recovery Help Line — 866-789-1511 — is specifically for Washington residents experiencing substance abuse disorder, mental health challenges, and problems with gambling. “The most important thing is to talk about it,” Lauren said, “not keep it bottled inside.”
The Washington Warm Line provides peer support to people living with emotional and mental health challenges. Anyone experiencing anxiety, loneliness, or depression can call 1-877-500-WARM to talk to someone who has experienced similar issues and can empathize. All calls are confidential. This line is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
“People can call this phone line and talk to folks who have been in their shoes,” Lauren said. “These people understand where callers are coming from.”
Lastly, Teen Link is an anonymous peer-to-peer help line for teens experiencing emotional turmoil, mental health challenges, and thoughts of suicide. Teen Link volunteers, ranging in age from 13 to 20, answer the phone and chat messages to help people in their peer group going through a rough time. “On average, two teens die by suicide every day in the state of Washington,” Lauren said. “We think it’s important now more than ever to have a teen line where youth can can call for support.”
Crisis Clinic makes a statewide effort to be there for locals in distress. For those outside Washington, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Crisis Clinic couldn’t do their work without the help of their dedicated team of volunteers and staff members. The majority of Crisis Clinic’s phone lines are answered by volunteers who have been trained to listen and offer support in times of crisis. Over 400 volunteers answer the phones and talk to people facing all types of challenges. Some have been volunteering with Crisis Clinic for over 30 years because they feel called to help others. Those who are interested in volunteering can apply online.
All volunteers receive over 60 hours of training so they can develop the communication skills needed in order to meet callers where they’re at emotionally and help them through difficult situations.
“We recruit volunteers from all over Seattle and the surrounding areas,” Lauren said. “Many volunteers from our universities are individuals who want to become therapists or social workers, and are looking to gain real-world skills and knowledge in crisis work. We also see a lot of volunteers who are teachers, police officers, lawyers, and many others in the community who have a passion for this work or just want to give back after experiencing similar difficulties in their own lives.”
The team doesn’t just offer call lines; these professionals also organize support groups, including one for survivors of suicide. Friends and family members who have lost someone dear to them can stop by regular bereavement support groups led by professionals. The drop-in bereavement group occurs twice monthly at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Monday of the month. This group is held in the Business Office, and anyone can stop by to talk about their experiences with grief.
Regular participants of this group can ask to join the Six-Week Bereavement Support Group — a group of up to eight people that meets once a week for six weeks. This closed group is intended for people who are at least six months removed from the suicide.
Crisic Clinic’s team continues to look for opportunities to serve people in need and provide resources for a range of mental and emotional health challenges in the community. From conducting trainings to running trauma recovery clinics, Crisis Clinic’s mission is to heal people who are hurting and provide a supportive community to embrace anyone in need.
Washington State and King County residents of all ages rely on Crisis Clinic to support them through emotionally difficult times. The organization’s empathetic volunteers, staff members, and professional clinicians give individuals, loved ones, and families an outlet they can reach out to when they’re struggling with mental health challenges, suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, or dealing with other difficulties in the their lives.
Since the 1960s, Crisis Clinic has offered hope and connection to people across the state. Its mission is to help people through the challenges they’re experiencing as well as to help prevent future crises from happening by making professional resources, including 24/7 help lines and in-person support groups, more accessible to anyone who needs to talk about the challenges they’re facing. Crisis Clinic has established a growing network of hundreds of volunteers, staff, and supporters who truly care about helping people recover from trauma and lead happy, healthy lives.
“We are the central access point for many people in our community,” Lauren told us. “Our volunteers are on the line 24 hours a day. The work they do is really amazing. We wouldn’t be able to do this work without them.”