By Ryan Dickson, CommUnity Crisis Helpline Director
Anniversaries are important, as they mark time for us to reflect on the past and envision the future. July 1st marks the year anniversary of the implementation of 988 as the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. As such, I think it is appropriate to take time here to reflect upon the success of 988, and examine what has made this a successful endeavor not only nationwide, but also especially here in Iowa.
988 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as it was known before, was created to offer support to those in emotional crisis or distress. But what does that mean? What does support look like, and what can you expect when you call, chat, or text with deeply private concerns? Support may look different to everyone, and a one size fits all approach will not address the needs of every individual. However, a general framework allows us to be flexible and understanding while helping as many people as possible. For us, that framework and philosophy can be summed up in three words: Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR).
Again, we’re brought back to the question “what does that mean?” Breaking it down, UPR means that every individual is deserving of respect, care, consideration, and support, regardless of their background, circumstances, affiliations, identities, or beliefs. Another way to think of it, there are no conditions that make someone unworthy of care.
Positive means that we offer the person reaching out the benefit of the doubt. It is assumed that someone is doing the best they can with the resources, environment, and skills they have. There are no declarations of what one “should” or “shouldn’t” have done, nor assumptions made about their current situation. We are dealing in the present primarily.
To regard someone in this context means to acknowledge their humanity in its fullest, to assume and search for commonalities rather than differences, to see the value inherent in not only the person reaching out, but in the dynamic and interpersonal relationship between the caller/chatter/texter and counselor.
It is this philosophy that ensures everyone who reaches out in Iowa experiences the human connection that makes help through crisis possible. It is the reason people have been reaching out for 20 years, and looking to the future, is the reason more and more will continue to reach out. Our impact continues to grow through the 988 service, and we are fortunate to have been on the ground floor of something this powerful in service to Iowa and the nation.
If you or a loved one need space to explore your feelings, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Trained crisis counselors are always available to provide support. Text or call 988 or chat online at 988lifeline.org/chat any time of day or night.