The Life-Changing Things You Learn Volunteering At A Suicide & Emotional Support Line

back of woman's head in front of a river
Daria Nepriakhina

Over the years I have come to one big realization: listening can save lives.

Let’s take a step back and think about our own pain and darkness that is harnessed within us. How do we handle it? How can we bring it to light and really tackle it head on? There are many different tactics that may help, but in my eyes, being able to freely discuss one’s feelings is life altering.

I have gotten the chance to volunteer at an emotional support line in San Francisco and it has truly opened my eyes to how vital emotional support is for human survival. This support line provides older adults and teens fighting mental illnesses, feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. We, the volunteers, get to provide 10 minutes of support to each and every one of our callers. Now, we aren’t therapist and trust me I am the furthest thing from one (my day job is in the FinTech space). But for those 10 minutes, we get to be with that caller and really empathize and feel all that they are going through.

It’s important to know the difference between empathy and sympathy. When we empathize, we do our best to feel and understand their pain, not ‘pity’ them and feel sorry for what may be going on. It’s like walking a mile in their shoes. Then we are able to really listen, be there with caller and guide them through the pain.

Sometimes it’s not about fixing the problem, but letting the person grieve.

Letting go means being able to live through feeling the pain of the loss first. I have given myself over a year to grieve emotional pain as I sat week after week with a therapist so I could get that same ear. And let me tell you something, it changed my life. I was able to reopen my heart and to feel a life not filled with depression and anxiety. One negative connotation we must fight are these ideas of therapy being frowned upon. Why must we feel bad for asking for help and support through the stress of life? It’s only natural to understand that every human being holds pain within them and as society we must help address these concerns by accepting that therapy could be an answer.

In today’s society, with anxiety and depression on the rise, we need to be able to come together and really support one another and go beyond these issues that are stopping us from living up to our full potential.

We need to provide emotional support to each and every human we come across because you never know how much you may have saved their life. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

I love cheap SF iced coffee and bunnies. Studying human interaction, Twitter ranting, crying while reading RM Drake, and listening to flume are my favorite things to do when I’m not being a wolf on wall street.

Keep up with Sana on Instagram and Twitter

More From Thought Catalog