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CRISIS LINE VOLUNTEERS LISTEN, GIVE REASSURANCE

Whether the problem is a young girl's cat caught in a tree or a potentially suicidal caller, nearly 100 volunteers at the Utah County Crisis Line are ready to help.

Supported by mostly college-age volunteers, the Crisis Line provides more than just a listening ear to callers. Volunteers are ready to give reassurance, direction and information on other local agencies that can help in a crisis."We are trained to listen to people's feelings, identify problems and sort through the options," said Stacee McCotter, director of the Crisis Line. "Some people really don't know what options are out there."

For some callers the only option is the Crisis Line.

"The fact we're there to talk them through the moment is what gives me the greatest joy," said Tamara, a Crisis Line volunteer. "I am touched by the amount of loneliness, sadness and pain out there."

Jim, a one-year veteran volunteer, said he didn't know what to expect from Crisis Line callers. "I expected to deal more with suicidal people, but I've learned crisis just isn't suicide. Knowing that you've helped somebody work through their problems has also helped me realize the baggage I carry isn't so bad."

In 1995, more than 9,000 callers sought help from Crisis Line volunteers, and nearly 8,000 children called on the Phone Pals line. Their concerns ranged from being home alone, to relationship concerns and abuse problems, to suicidal calls.

"We hear of emotional abuse the most," McCotter said. Financial problems and loneliness are also the basis for many calls.

"I admire our volunteers making a quiet impact on the community. Our volunteers come from all over. Currently we have an FBI agent, a homemaker, a retiree and several professionals volunteering," McCotter said.

McCotter remembers her most difficult call came from a male who had been raped by his roommate. He was contemplating suicide and was suffering from deep guilt. She worked through his problem with him for more than three hours on the phone.

McCotter said although volunteers are trained to keep emotional concerns from "going home" with them, it is still impossible to not become somewhat involved.

"It's only human to get emotional," said Teresa, a two-year volunteer. "Some days its been real rough, and I need time to calm down. If it doesn't impact you, you shouldn't be volunteering."

The spouse of a Crisis Line caller diagnosed with bipolar-depressive disease wrote a letter to the Deseret News saying, "Some sort of support system is always necessary to help the afflicted person keep all their ducks in a row. In my wife's case the Utah County Crisis Line has helped fill in as a support system.

"Over the years the volunteers that work the line have been there to help Linda through all kinds of stressful situations that could have driven her to the suicidal feelings that characterize her disease. They have, I'm sure, on more than one occasion, saved her life. These are young heroes . . . they are fantastic people, these volunteers."

McCotter is always looking for those kinds of heroes in the community to volunteer three or four hours of their time each week to the 24-hour Crisis Line. For more information about volunteering, call McCotter at the Crisis Line 226-4433. For Phone Pals call 226-4795.