CLEVELAND-- Hundreds of calls come into the Frontline Services Crisis Center every month from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The number for that lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
“It’s easier to call a stranger, sadly, than it is may be to speak to your own loved ones perhaps because your loved ones don’t understand the gravity of what you’re going through,” Jane Granzier said.
Granzier is the associate director for crisis at Frontline Services, the Cleveland center that provides free and confidential support and advice 24 hours a day to people in crisis.
Calls also made to the Cuyahoga County crisis line at 216-623-6888 are also answered at Frontline.
“About 50 new calls per day, the vast majority of we triage and deal with on the phone by making recommendations, assessing risk, determining the client is not in immediate and elevated risk,” Granzier said.
If there is an immediate risk, a member of Frontline’s Mobile Crisis team will respond in person to the caller. They go to homes, schools, businesses and hospitals.
“Our M.O. is not to call the police to get them out there. We are the alternative to bringing the police to their door. We are the alternative, and we want to help them in a way that is most comfortable and least restrictive,” Granzier said.
Shannon Smith is one of the people answering calls. During her shift, she is ready to talk someone through a tough and sometimes suicidal situation.
“Some are a little bit younger than last year. It seems like people are having more and more of these thoughts,” she said.
Smith is trained to assess risk, crisis and recommend mental health services to callers. She is one of Frontline’s main referral and information specialists. The walls of Smith’s cubicle are covered in phone numbers, websites and contact information for every mental health resource in the area.
“When we need to react quickly, you know, it helps to have it right there in front of you,” she explained.
The National Lifeline expects to get 3 million calls this year, which is triple the amount that came in in 2017. People like Smith are never reading from a script.
“The purpose of having a live person answer the phone is so that somebody has a compassionate, engaged, non-judgmental voice on the other line,” said Granzier.
Frontline Services is also working to ensure no caller falls through the cracks. For multiple years, Frontline has been making follow-up calls, which have become best practice for other crisis centers.
“Always making follow-up phone contact with our callers in the days and sometimes even weeks after the initial call,” she said.
Granzier stresses the line is open to everyone.
“We’re a mental health referral and information line so people don’t have to be calling about some acute psychiatric crisis or somebody who is imminently suicidal. We take calls about everything,” she said.
But for those who do feel overwhelmed, here is a message from one of the many people who are ready to offer help and hope.
“It takes a little bit of effort on their part, just a step of faith in that moment of pain and desperation. They just have to be willing to open up a little bit,” and she said the person on the other line will walk them through what to do next.