to Imagine New Kinds of Help and Hope
I work the overnight shift as a crisis counselor for NYC Well, New York City’s free, comprehensive crisis and support line administered by Vibrant Emotional Health. I’m here to listen without judgment and help with problems like stress, depression, anxiety or drug and alcohol misuse. For every call, I offer the support, resources, and referrals each person needs to move forward and be well.
This work is deeply personal to me. That’s because, at the time of my hiring at NYC Well, I had just undergone one of the darkest periods of my own life, losing my wife of 24 years and my beloved mother. Now that I wake up every day with a mission to help people through their own emotional crises I can help others and also heal myself.
People from all walks of life contact us in need of emotional support. Just the other day, I got a call at 2 o’clock in the morning and all I could hear on the other end was sobbing. In a moment like that, I don’t assume the worst; I think about how I can make that person’s life just a little bit easier. I start by putting myself in the caller’s shoes. Contacting the hotline and reaching out for help takes courage because let’s face it — it isn’t easy for someone to pick up the phone or send a text or chat to connect with a stranger in the midst of a crisis. But by contacting NYC Well, the individual has opened the door to achieving the emotional wellness they want. That’s why I tell all of the callers I speak with, “If you stay in the game, you’re going to come out a winner.” At any hour, day or night, in almost any language from phone, tablet or computer, NYC Well can get people in crisis the help they need. We can provide referrals for local services, assistance scheduling appointments, and follow up to check that a caller has connected to care and that it’s working for them. Earlier this year we launched a comprehensive public-facing search engine, where people can search for emotional and behavioral health services in their own words. This digital tool provides all New Yorkers with fast access to resources when they need them most.
Everybody needs help sometimes. Whatever you are dealing with, you don’t have to do it alone. Oftentimes, callers will tell me, “I’m so glad I called and spoke to you. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me.” Giving people this chance at hope is the most rewarding part of my job, and it’s what life should be all about.
—WILLIE WITHERSPOON, COUNSELOR, NYC WELL