Our crisis lines receive over 15,000 phone calls each year from people in need. Some callers feel overwhelmed, sad, or lonely. Others feel angry or confused, and may have nowhere else to turn.
Each crisis line phone call is answered by a Samaritan volunteer who has been extensively trained in non-judgmental active listening. They do not problem-solve or offer opinions. Instead they simply listen and allow a caller to truly unburden. The story told in the video below is a wonderful example of the impact listening can have.
Callers sometimes worry they shouldn’t call the crisis lines if they are not suicidal. You do not have to be suicidal to call. Simply needing a safe space to talk is reason enough to pick up the phone.
Whether you’re a first time caller or someone who has called us before, calling a crisis line can be very intimidating. We want to make the experience as easy and comfortable for you as possible.
Callers can rest assured that all calls to The Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands are free and completely confidential within our organization. Volunteers do not have access to your name or phone number. They are there to listen and help you through your problems. However, if after a thorough conversation with you about your situation the volunteer thinks you are at imminent risk of harming yourself, the volunteer will bring a staff member into the conversation to assist in trying to help you. Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands will always seek to collaborate with you to keep you safe but, if necessary and as a last resort, the staff member may access your phone number for the purpose of initiating an active rescue on your behalf. Staff will only undertake such an initiative if they believe that — without this intervention — you are likely to sustain a life-threatening injury.
After you’ve dialed our number, a Samaritan volunteer will answer the phone by saying, “Cape Samaritans. How can I help you?” And with that simple phrase out of the way, your call has begun.
Some callers are very shy when they first call, while others feel fairly comfortable diving right in. You can choose to share as much or as little as you like with the volunteer. There is no right or wrong way; there’s only what feels best for you.
You do not need to share your name or where you’re from when you call. Sometimes a volunteer might ask, “What may I call you?” but you don’t have to answer or you can use a different name, if you prefer. And remember, our center does not have caller ID and we cannot trace your call. You are safe to talk with us about anything.
Many first-time callers in particular will say they’re not sure where they should start. Often there are so many details, emotions, and circumstances to describe that it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to say. If our volunteer hears you struggling to determine where to begin, they may prompt you to share why you called that particular day. Sometimes starting from “today” is easier than starting from the beginning.
Some callers worry what a volunteer might think of them for sharing the things they do; other callers worry they have to “prove” they are in pain or crisis. Please rest assured that our volunteers practice non-judgmental active listening. They will not judge your emotions or experiences. Instead they will trust and value your life experience.
Calls vary in length – sometimes a caller only needs to speak for a few minutes, other callers need a bit longer. There may be times during your call that the volunteer will need to check one of the other phone lines if it rings. If that happens, the volunteer will let you know they want to listen more and they’ll be back in a moment.
Your phone call to our crisis lines will be different than most phone calls. You will be doing almost all of the talking. During your call, the volunteer might ask a few questions to encourage you to share more. But their primary role will be to listen to whatever you want to share.
Volunteers cannot offer solutions or opinions, or share personal details about their life. Sometimes this can be confusing to a caller who might be curious about the person who is listening to them. But how a volunteer might solve a problem, what a volunteer might think of something, or the volunteer’s life story has no bearing on what will work best for a caller. So our volunteers have been extensively trained to listen, and to hopefully lighten some of the burden you are feeling.
Unfortunately there are some times when we are receiving a lot of phone calls and do not have enough volunteers on duty. If this happens, the volunteer may ask if you would be comfortable calling back in a little bit. Volunteers never ask callers to do this lightly, particularly because we know how difficult it is to pick up the phone to call us in the first place. If this happens, please trust the volunteers do very much want to listen to you and genuinely hope you will call back.
We encourage you to call our crisis lines as often as you need. The next time you call, it’s probable that you’ll speak with a different volunteer. This may feel disappointing at first, particularly if you’ve already explained your situation to another volunteer. But please remember all of our volunteers are there to help. Again, don’t feel as if you have to share the entire story for the volunteer to understand your need to call.
Samaritan volunteers are here to listen every day of the year, including holidays. Volunteers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays and weekends.
Remember, you do not need to be suicidal to call our phone lines. Everyone needs a little extra support from time to time. We’re here to give you that support.