Editor's Note: "Stories from the Helpline" is a recurring feature on The Bilerico Project, bringing in the personal accounts of Helpline counselors from The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth. This installment comes from Aneesh Sheth, who is the East Coast program intern at The Trevor Project. She is also a volunteer Helpline counselor at The Randy Stone East Coast Call Center in New York City.
A call that sticks with me to this day is one of my first rescue calls. Having been on the Helpline only a few months and not yet experiencing a suicidal caller, I immediately began to panic as to how to help this young girl. I was lucky enough to have fantastic trainers who taught me how to be prepared for any situation as a counselor. I took a deep breath and dove right in with the caller.
She was a 15-year-old girl, calling from inside her closet. She had just told her father she was a lesbian, and in his denial and rage, he abandoned her and drove off to his girlfriend's house. Terrified and not knowing what else to expect from her father, she hid in the closet, a space where she felt safe. She then picked up the phone and called The Trevor Helpline.
"My dad told me he doesn't want to have a daughter like that," the young girl told me. I immediately felt her pain. I couldn't imagine how she must have been feeling, sitting all alone in her closet with no one to turn to. Adding to her isolation, she confided in me that she had recently proposed to her girlfriend, who turned her down by saying, "it just isn't the right time." My heart sank deeper and deeper as this young girl told me how she wished she didn't exist, and how she felt that all of her problems would go away if she died.
For half an hour, we talked about the other things going on in her life, trying to focus on all of the positive things. She loved to surf, and had a deep passion for adventure. We discussed all the adventures she had been on, and other adventures she'd like to conquer. I thought we were making progress. She seemed to be in a happier, healthier state of mind. But her mood changed again, and she began talking about the medication she was on for a heart condition. She told me that she had immediate access to this medication, and was planning on taking it that night in an attempt to take her own life. I quickly sensed I needed to do something. My co-counselor at the time, whom I am extremely grateful to, initiated rescue services. She gave the police all of the information I could get out of the girl, but it did not seem to be enough. Abruptly, the young girl hung up after stating she was going to go take her pills.
I was left in a daze. My first reaction was panic, and then guilt, for not being able to do more. I felt like I hadn't accomplished what I was trained to do and that this young girl's life was going to end. "It's all part of the job," is what I was told. No matter how much you know and try to understand that concept, it doesn't sink in until you're involved. Finally, I was ecstatic to hear that the police had found her house when they called me back about 40 minutes later. I was relieved to hear that she was found and would be saved.
Many of my friends who I tell this story to are continually impressed by the work that my fellow co-counselors and I do on a daily basis. Yet once I heard back from the police, the first feeling I felt was not one of success, and it did not matter who I impressed. Rather, I felt a sense of overwhelming relief. Thanks to the many counselors who volunteer their time on The Trevor Helpline, this young girl and many like her, have someone to reach out to in their time of crisis. Our motto is "you are not alone," and we stand by it. Thanks to The Trevor Project, these young people truly are never alone.
Be sure to check out our previous installment of "Stories from the Helpline" from volunteer Wing-Sum Doud, Adrienne Smith, Michael Vacha Jr., Dave Reynolds, and Brooke Carlson.