They say if you don’t learn from history you are doomed to repeat it.
On April 7th 1998, I lost my wife and partner in life, Kristin Brooks, to suicide as a result of postpartum psychosis. Her condition was the result of a complete failure of everyone in her life to prevent it. She slipped through every crack there was and many of them still exist today. In the ensuing 22 years, some things improved but the only lasting improvement is the network of crisis hotlines we built starting in September of 1998.
The video accompanying this introduction occurred a scant 7 months later. Two weeks after this video of the dedication to 1-888-SUICIDE, we managed to wrest 1-800-SUICIDE from the company that had held it for over 2 decades ringing nowhere.
One of our founding Board members Paul Quinnett Ph.D. testified at a trial in 1994 for a woman’s estate after her suicide. I recall him telling me the story of her life – married, children, career, beautiful house, etc. Suffering from severe depression she lost her family, then her job, then her home, and ended her life while living in her car. In her detailed journal/diary her last note before she ended her life was: ”I called 1-800-SUICIDE and no one answered”. It was for that reason alone Paul decided to join with me to build the National Hopeline Network.
In May of 2000, I spoke before Members of Congress and persuaded Senators Kennedy, Wellstone, and Reid to sponsor a bill to fund 1- 800-SUICIDE. Six weeks later it passed by unanimous consent! That was a miracle.
If you read the text of Wellstone’s testimony it clearly states: to train and certify crisis line workers. Here we are in the year 2020, the 20th anniversary of that landmark legislation, and while over 200 million dollars has been spent, there is still no national standard of skill level required to become a crisis line worker.
At IMAlive Crisis Center, each volunteer goes through over 30 hours of training, practice, and a Competency Certification Exam to ensure that the training they receive is consistent and prepares them for any type of interaction with a person in crisis at risk of suicide.
We hope that one day, a national standard for training of all crisis line workers is built and enforced. In the meantime, please know that each and everyone of the IMALIVE Volunteers is a caring person who is trained and certified to support you, if you are ever in a suicidal crisis.
On this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, please reach out to any friend or relative who may be suffering from a mental illness, and see if they need support.
H. Reese Butler II
Founder and President, Kristin Brooks Hope Center