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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Response Long Island: Crisis Intervention Hotline

    In a cozy little room in an attic at Stony Brook sits SBU senior Jillian A. and first year School of Social Work student Laura F. Several dozen phones and an assortment of snacks surround them. The atmosphere is very relaxed, almost familial. And then, the phone rings. The volunteers are instantly transformed. One of the volunteers picks up the phone and answers in a soothing voice: “Hello, Response.” She then listens very carefully.

    Laura and Jillian are just two of the volunteers helping out with Suffolk County’s only 24 -hour crisis intervention hotline. Response was initiated thirty years ago at Stony Brook University. The near suicide attempt of a student prompted considerable discussion in the community as to where someone can go when they feel alone and need to talk. Through the help of the community, Response of Suffolk County was created.

    Thirty years later, Response is taking in on average anywhere between 12,000 and 16,000 phone calls a year, about 40-50 calls a day. Response fields phone calls primarily from Suffolk County, but receives calls from all over the nation.

    “We’re helping callers feel that there’s another person out there who cares about them,” said Sonia Wagner, CSW, executive director of Response. “College is an extremely stressful time for students and it’s good to know that there’s a place to go for help if you feel like you have no other options.”

    “Many of our callers don’t have anyone else to talk to and even with people who do, it’s amazing what a difference it makes to have someone whose listening in a nonjudgmental way,” said Rita Barnhart, CSW, coordinator of training. “We have a saying here at Response: Your mother always told you to never talk to strangers, but sometimes strangers make the best listeners.”

    Response volunteers work several hours a week, donating their time and energy to this organization. “Volunteering is so amazing,” said Laura F. “The feeling that you receive when a caller gives confirmation in one way or another that I’ve helped them through a difficult time is priceless.”

    The training to become a Response hotline volunteer involves lecture and skill development. Volunteers learn to ‘actively listen’ through examples and by role-playing. Through workshops, they learn to deal with emergency situations like suicide calls.

    “Our telephone counselors are comfortable talking to all kinds of people from the scared twelve year old to the guy hurting from a recent breakup to the isolated elderly person,” said Barnhart. “The key in being a telephone counselor is being able to build trust in callers through an accepting, nonjudgmental attitude.”

    “It’s fulfilling knowing that on the other end of the line there’s someone whose reaching out and I’m able to offer a hand,” said Jillian A.

    Besides serving as a suicide and crisis center, Response also acts as an information center with its extensive referral system.

    “We act as a bridge to additional help in the community through referrals,” said Wagner.

    This system has access to telephone numbers, locations, and payment options to several hundred organizations throughout Suffolk County. These organizations include but are not limited to psychiatrists, support groups, and hospitals.’

    Response can be reached at (631) 751-7500 for any questions. If you are interested in training to become a telephone counselor there is a training session at 6:30 pm on Tuesday September 9, 2003. The training session is located at Murphy Junior High School at Stony Brook, NY.

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