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Nicholas Thomas

Director of Content Marketing for the National Council

Self-care and Crisis Services during COVID-19

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In many ways, COVID-19 has tested our resolve as a nation and our resilience as a behavioral health care community. It has also revealed a new legion of heroes – crisis call center operators.

Like the health care workers fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic, operators of mental health and suicide prevention call centers are saving lives and strengthening communities.

But it’s not without its challenges.

Navigating today’s crises – while helping others do the same – isn’t easy. Amid a growing pandemic and social unrest, burnout, compassion fatigue, heightened anxiety and depression are all too common.

Understanding and implementing strategies for self-care, resilience-building, cultural humility and trauma-informed care are essential for the health and wellness of call center operators.

Just ask April Naturale, PhD., assistant vice president for national crisis and wellness programs at Vibrant Emotional Health, which administers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The Lifeline is the most recognized mental health crisis call network in the United States. Its 24/7, toll-free crisis call and crisis chat services are provided by 180+ crisis centers across the nation.

“COVID-19, as we know, is an outstanding and constant pressure. And Lifeline operators are in a shared trauma situation, where they are also experiencing the fear and threat of the virus,” said April.

As a support system during these unique and challenging times, Lifeline call centers are well-positioned and well-equipped to offer hope and help to individuals in need – including their own staff.

“With secondary traumatic stress increasing in call centers across the country, we are introducing a nationwide wellness program for staff who respond to suicide prevention calls,” said April.

That program includes surveying call centers to solicit their feedback regarding what they feel helps most, along with developing tip sheets with information based on best practices, expanding their resource base and delivering trainings that build staff competency.

“We know from the research that people who are more experienced, trained and skilled have the least amount of compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress,” said April. “We are committed to investing in our crisis centers and their operators, so they can continue to focus on the callers.”

Want to learn more about the on-the-ground impact of crisis call centers? Looking for insights into self-care and crisis service delivery during COVID-19?

Register for our free webinar on Thursday, September 24, from 2-3:30 p.m. ET, to discuss workplace resilience; hear from April and her colleague, Shye Louis, director of clinical best practices at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; and capture lessons learned from crisis call center staff.