HopeLine offers lifesaving listening to teens, adults

HopeLine volunteers are encouraged to share positive comments from callers
HopeLine volunteers are encouraged to share positive comments from callers newsobserver.com

“I wanted you to know you saved a life today.”

That’s what a recent caller told the HopeLine volunteer who listened and helped him talk through a crisis and see his way forward. It is, says HopeLine Executive Director Barry Bryant, the best reward the volunteer could have gotten.

HopeLine is a Triangle-based hotline that makes trained volunteers available by phone from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. “It’s confidential and it’s nonjudgmental,” Bryant says. “Every volunteer’s goal is to listen to you and support you. Not to give advice. They’re going to leave you in a better place because you’ll know how to resolve your challenges better after you’ve talked with them.”

Launched in 1970 with the help of mental health professionals, HopeLine maintains a crisis line staff of about 65 volunteers. When just listening is not enough, volunteers refer callers to the services they need. HopeLine’s primary mission is crisis intervention and suicide prevention, but the nonprofit offers services that fall into two other general categories, Bryant says.

Volunteers can make “reassurance calls” to seniors or people with disabilities who may not have much contact with others. “If there’s someone in your family that you’d like for us to call because you can’t call them regularly,” Bryant says, “it’s a quick call, just to say hello, how are you today, just wanted to check on how you’re doing.”

HopeLine also runs a Teen Talk Line, aimed at callers ages 10 to 19. Teens or tweens who might be more comfortable texting than talking can chat online with a volunteer about stress, relationships, eating disorders, trouble at school or home, or whatever is on the caller’s mind.

“Thank you for making me feel like I'm normal and not going crazy.” – Caller, April

“We’re kind of a warm line and a hot line,” explains Jenny Ayscue, volunteer coordinator. “Hot line” meaning the caller needs immediate assistance or faces a life-threatening situation. “And then we’re also a warm line, if you want to call and talk about a crisis that’s going on in your life.”

We talk to anybody about anything. We don’t give advice, period. That’s the formula of active listening, and it works.

Volunteer David Anderson

“We talk to anybody about anything,” volunteer David Anderson says. Before that can happen, crisis line volunteers must undergo 40 hours of training in active listening. They then get eight hours of supervised phone work, before they take calls on their own. “We don’t give advice, period,” Anderson says. “That’s the formula of active listening, and it works. We go through a lot of role playing in those 40 hours.”

Sometimes, when a caller’s response is especially uplifting, the volunteer will jot it on a Post-it note and place it on a whiteboard for other volunteers to see.

“It's nice to know there is someone to talk to on the other end of the line.” – Caller, date not recorded

Bryant says HopeLine has several key goals in the coming year. The first is to increase awareness in the community of HopeLine’s services and, in tandem, to educate the public on how to help friends or others in times of crisis. Second, the group hopes to do more fundraising and grant writing so it can expand its capacity. Related to that, Bryant says, his third priority in the coming months is to build partnerships with other local stakeholders such as the Foundation of Hope, which supports mental illness research and treatment.

“There are too many partners who care about this issue – mental health, suicidal ideation, depression, all these things – but none of them are doing exactly what we do in Wake County,” Bryant says, “so we need to work with them more collaboratively.”

“I feel like I have been washed over by a wave of kindness. Thank you!” – Caller, October 2015

The organization welcomes cash donations, which could be put to immediate use repairing a computer vital to the volunteers’ work, installing a call-tracking database to improve volunteer scheduling, upgrading office furnishings, and paying general monthly expenses. Office supplies and snacks and drinks for the volunteers are another perpetual need, Ayscue says.

Bryant says the group could use more space. “If there’s anyone out there that has an office space that they just can’t rent, or they want to write it off or they just want to donate it,” he says, “that’s wonderful for us.”

And, of course, on-site help. “Anybody that’s interested in volunteering, we’re always looking for additional volunteers,” says Anderson, who has worked with HopeLine for about two years. People who don’t want to take crisis calls can help in the office, Ayscue says. She would welcome a skilled designer to upgrade HopeLine’s website, too.

For those who are interested in working the phones, the training schedule and an application are available on HopeLine’s website, www.hopeline-nc.org. The need is great, Bryant says. “Our calendar is usually not anywhere close to being completely filled in with people,” he says. “And that means there are a lot of calls that go unanswered.”

“So many people, there is absolutely nothing positive in their life,” says Anderson. “And HopeLine is one of the few places that they can actually talk to somebody. And they’re going to get that positive response. They’re going to be supported. They’re not going to be judged. We are here to let them know that they are really being heard.”


P.O. Box 10490

Raleigh, N.C. 27605


Contact: Barry Bryant, 919-832-3326

Description: HopeLine is the Triangle area’s only free, anonymous and confidential suicide prevention and crisis intervention helpline. We receive hundreds of calls each month from individuals who are at the end of their rope. By offering hearing from the heart, HopeLine crisis programs ensure that no one ever has to feel alone.

HopeLine serves as first responders to our community during personal crises such as job loss, divorce, drug abuse, self-harm, mental illness, grief, suicide, sexual identity crises, homelessness, sexual assault, and much more. Our crisis counselors have saved countless lives by reaching out to emergency services in an immediate crisis, but also by connecting individuals to local area resources like food banks, homeless shelters, counseling and crisis services, job placement programs and monetary assistance.

Donations needed: HopeLine is in need of monetary assistance to expand our programs to offer 24-hour coverage 7 days a week. Currently, HopeLine is only able to offer coverage from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Volunteers needed: HopeLine is always looking for new volunteers to join our team. There are many ways to volunteer with HopeLine, from our crisis counselor volunteers to working in our office. Our crisis counselor volunteers provide confidential listening services, crisis and suicide intervention, as well as referrals to community resources.

$10 would buy: The 40-hour training of one of our crisis counselor volunteers to serve on our crisis lines.

$20 would buy: Two hours of coverage on our crisis lines.

$50 would buy: Five hours of coverage on our crisis lines.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer