Local Retiree Has Encore Experience Answering Crisis Line Calls

Published: January 23, 2018

Indianapolis—Families First would like to thank Mike Dunn, Supervisor of Crisis and Suicide Intervention Services for his dedication to suicide prevention. This year marks ten years since his initial involvement in the 24/7 crisis and suicide hotline which was first managed by Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis (MHA Indy). After 35 years of working in the plumbing service and contracting industry, Dunn retired in 2006. One year later, he made the commitment to answer the calls of individuals in mental and emotional distress. “Mike is the kindest, gentlest voice you could expect to hear when calling in a crisis,” said Rachael Bain-Chase of Families First, when asked to speak on Dunn’s personality on the Line. “He is a true gift to those who call in and callers feel accepted and understood while receiving great resources and ideas to keep themselves safe.” In 2010, he left retirement and became a supervisor and trainer for the Crisis and Suicide Intervention Program. A few years later, he became the director for the program.

Families First assumed the management of the Crisis Line when MHA Indy and Families First merged in the fall of 2016. Still in the role of Supervisor, Dunn recruits and trains volunteers, advocates for mental health services, and respond to calls on the line. “Many times, we listen to people on the worst day of their life and we are the first to learn of it,” shared Dunn. “I believe it is a privilege to be able to provide assistance.”

A privilege that Dunn takes very seriously, especially because the line is operational 24/7, 365 days a year. That means that on weekends and holidays, Dunn may be on call, ready to respond to someone suffering from overwhelming and intense emotional pain. Often, when the line is short of volunteers, Dunn will cover these shifts. In 2015, he was on the line for 6,771 hours. For perspective, there are 8,760 hours in one calendar year. Many times, during recruitment, individuals show an interest in volunteering, but are nervous about the responsibility of answering calls from individuals who may be experiencing problems bigger than their own. To that Dunn says, “All you must do is care, we can teach you the rest. During training, volunteers will be given the structure, support, and information necessary to clarify the situations of our callers and help them develop their own solutions with facilitation and guidance. We let callers know they don’t have to go through their crisis alone. There are people who care and help is available. We believe there is hope for anyone that may contact us.”

In Indiana, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34. Volunteers on the Crisis Line are crucial to providing resources and comfort during times of great distress--we need you! The next Crisis Line training begins August 9th and information can be found by visiting the volunteer page on the Families First website or emailing Tocarra Mallard, Families First Volunteer Coordinator, at tocarram@familiesfirstindiana.org.

About Families First

Founded in 1835, Families First is the oldest not-for-profit social service organization in our community. Guided by the belief that healthy families are the building blocks of a strong community, Families First works to create healthier communities by strengthening families and individuals during life challenges and changes. Last year more than 11,000 individuals turned to Families First for hope and healing. A broad array of services are offered to address the challenges of parenting, family conflict, trauma, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, mental health issues, and the needs of older and challenged adults. Families First is fully accredited by the national Council on Accreditation (COA), attesting that it meets the highest standards of professional performance. Services are provided in the homes of clients, at various community sites, and through offices in Indianapolis, and Greenfield.