Author: Brittany Harris; Crisis Line Intervention Specialist Volunteer
For as long as I can remember I’ve had an interest in helping others. I wanted to be a doctor as a kid because I wanted to make people feel better. I changed career paths in college but my desire to give back to the world never wavered. From working with athletes in the Special Olympics to going on a service trip to El Salvador to teaching kids in Junior Achievement, I never felt truly fulfilled unless I was volunteering. Almost exactly a year ago I realized that life had gotten really busy and I had put volunteerism to the side for a few years, and I knew something was missing.
Mental health has been an active part of over half my life. In my teenage years I started dealing with depression and anxiety became a daily struggle in my early 20s. When you’re young and dealing with those things, you feel “crazy” and misunderstood. In those days I didn’t really talk to anyone about it - my journal and music were my outlets. At times I felt very alone. Thankfully in my 20s I realized something needed to change and I started going to therapy. It changed my life.
So just about one year ago, I Googled volunteer opportunities and somehow stumbled across being a Crisis Intervention Specialist on Families First’s crisis line. Something spoke to me. I vividly remember almost getting emotional, that this opportunity was meant for me. I took a leap and went to an event to learn about what was involved and met some really nice people who also experienced mental health struggles in their lives. The meeting reaffirmed that I was ready to commit and I started training a month later. I’ve been actively volunteering on the line since June 2018.
Mike Dunn, the supervisor of the crisis line, mentioned early on that while we would learn a lot about mental health and people in general, we’d equally learn about ourselves in the process. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’ve learned that I still have struggles with my mental health and that’s okay! I can still help others. I can still be a good listener and make a difference. That’s the thing - most people just need an empathetic ear so they feel less alone in the world. I can be the person I needed when I was a teenager. I’ve learned to be more patient with others - people almost always are doing the best they can, and we all have things going on that others can’t see. Most of all, I’ve learned to end the stigma. It’s okay to have a hard time. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to let others truly see YOU.
I am appreciative of Families First and to all of the people who give their time to any endeavors they feel worthy. I encourage anyone reading this (yes, you!) to find something you enjoy that’ll allow you to give back. If you’re passionate about mental health or helping sexual assault survivors or the less fortunate in our community, Families First could be the perfect organization for you. Take a leap! Go to an informational meeting and ask questions. Meet others who are doing this invaluable work and see if it’s right for you. Anyone can make a difference and make the world a better place.