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Crisis Center calls increase

BY CARLY MATTHEW | MAY 04, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Johnson County Crisis Center has seen an increase in both 24-hour Crisis Line and Crisis Chat contacts this year.

Three-quarters into fiscal 2015, the number of calls to the Johnson County Crisis Center’s 24-hour Crisis Line had reached almost 9,200, according to the center’s data.

In fiscal 2014, there were 9,700 calls.

Also in fiscal 2015, volunteers responded to approximately 3,500 online Crisis Chat conversations; there were 2,600 in fiscal 2014, according to center records.

Around 100 active volunteers work in the crisis-intervention program. The Crisis Center would like to train more this summer.

“It’s not a volunteer opportunity for everybody, but it’s definitely one for the best in Iowa City,” Crisis Intervention Coordinator Beau Pinkham said.

The Crisis Center has opened up two additional hotlines in the past few months, including a youth suicide hotline and the Iowa Help Line.

Pinkham said this is in addition to the center’s two central crisis lines and a domestic-abuse hotline it helps run at night.

He said he attributes the increase to the public’s better awareness of mental-health propblems as well as people spreading the word about these types of services.

“We’re making a great impact nationwide breaking down mental-health stigma,” he said.

University of Iowa Counseling Service Director Sam Cochran said the Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline and online chats are an invaluable resource for his service, especially as students come forward with more serious concerns.

He said he’s given out the center’s number and online chat information to students who he thought might need someone to help outside of Counseling Service hours and on the weekends.

“We rely on the Crisis Center to provide the 24/7 service we can’t due to limited resources,” Cochran said.

He said he trusts the Crisis Center volunteers because of the vigorous training they receive.

Volunteers are trained in areas such as “active listening” and “lethality assessment,” according to the center’s website.

The summer training session lasts seven full days spread throughout late May and the month of June.

UI senior Ellie Hiland, who began volunteering at the center a year and a half ago, works the minimum three-hour shift per week plus extra shifts when she can.

She said she applied to become a volunteer because — being a psychology major — she wanted to boost her résumé. She enjoys having the opportunity to “help people through the moment.”

Hiland said she plans to study marriage and family therapy during graduate school next year, and her volunteer work at the Crisis Center helped her to gain real-life experience.

 “To know you’ve helped someone and they don’t even know you is kind of a big thing,” she said.


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