By Grace Basler, Communications Intern
In the summer of 2015, Sean was introduced to CommUnity through a friend who was a Crisis Intervention volunteer. He thought that volunteering in Crisis Intervention sounded interesting, but originally put off becoming a volunteer because he didn’t know if he could make time for the training. Eventually, however, Sean decided to commit to becoming a Crisis Intervention volunteer. Ever since, he has volunteered once a week at CommUnity.
Unlike many of our Crisis Intervention volunteers, Sean didn’t have any direct ties to suicide or any personal connections to mental health crisis. Instead, Sean simply knew he wanted to find a way to help people in his community and he knew that helping people work through crisis situations would do just that. Sean said that volunteering in Crisis Intervention helps him directly see the impact he’s making, whereas other volunteer opportunities, while important, may be more abstract and not offer that direct contact with the person you are helping.
“This position really allows you to have that direct one-on-one connection and you have a chance to try to really help somebody and be there for them,” Sean said.
Currently, Sean works at the University of Iowa as a communications specialist with the Reading Research Center. He enjoys running, attending sporting events, and watching them on TV. In connection with the university’s Dance Marathon organization, Sean has run the Chicago marathon for the past seven years, raising money for the Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
After volunteering in Crisis Intervention for five years, Sean’s experiences have impacted his life and how he views mental health in his community.
“I don’t think that you can provide this service and not be changed by it,” Sean said. “The way that I talk to people and try to help people in my own personal life, friends, family members, people that I work with, the approach that I take to try to help people through a tough time has completely changed because of this experience.”
Sean has learned that simply listening can be one of the best ways to be there for people. He said that it’s natural to want to fix everyone’s problems, but unless you’re in their shoes you can’t fix it for them. This is a tough thing to admit since more than anything you want to make their problems go away.
“You’re going to have a much greater impact if you can help them work through the problem by listening and telling them that you care about them and letting them know that somebody understood them and heard them,” Sean said.
Sean wants people to know that it is okay to not be okay, and that the Crisis Intervention volunteers are not going to judge them. Sean and all of our volunteers are here to listen, and do what they can to help people get through their crisis.
“There are people out there who care about you even if they don’t know you yet,” Sean said.
For those who are considering volunteering in Crisis Intervention, Sean’s advice is simple: do it. Sean said that it’s natural to be hesitant, but remember that there is comprehensive training from people who really know what they’re doing.
“CommUnity does a really great job of getting you ready before you take that first solo call, so you know that you’re going to be prepared,” Sean said.
If you or someone you know are struggling with your mental health, we’re here to listen.
Call or text 855-325-4296
Chat at IowaCrisisChat.org
If you are interested in becoming a Crisis Intervention volunteer, please visit builtbycommunity.org/volunteer/ for more information.