– and the Crisis Center will be one of the beneficiaries!

Lafayette Juniors will host their 19th Annual Kitchen Tour on Saturday, May 19th, from 10am to 3pm. This year’s Tour benefits our organization as well as four other local non-profits dedicated to helping women, families, and individuals in need. It’s a special chance to see six beautiful Lafayette homes for a great cause, with masterfully designed modern, elegant, and awe-inspiring kitchens.  Tour tickets are $50 ($45 tax deductible). You can purchase tickets online at www.lafayettejuniors.org.

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The start of spring can bring a renewed sense of purpose, a time to commit or recommit to goals and intentions, a sense of renewal and returning energy,  and a time to set priorities for the coming months.

For those in the non-profit and social services sector, a renewed commitment to practicing self-care should be at the top of our list. Self-care is often stressed as a core competency or mandate for those in the social services sector, yet many of us struggle to develop and sustain meaningful self-care practices.

Self-care is far from self-indulgence, rather it is the safeguard against burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary trauma. Without self-care practices, we are attempting to carry out our daily task and fulfill our agencies mission without the necessary resources or equipment.

Developing your own self-care plan 

Unsure where to start?  The  University of Buffalo, School of Social Work has developed an online self-care starter kit that is an excellent resource for those who have been working in the social services sector for a few weeks to a few decades.  The kit includes tools to help you assess your coping strategies, identify your stressors, and develop a plan to help you build healthy habits and practices and protect against compassion fatigue.

You can see the full self-care starter kit here.

This year’s events remind us the unexpected and unthinkable can happen at any time.  Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone touched by tragedy.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, the devastating wildfires caused untold destruction and loss of life.  They’ve left many feeling vulnerable and anxious.

Where would you turn in a time of crisis for support?  Who listens to your fears?

We do.  Our Crisis Center volunteers are here to help and to listen, just as they have since we first opened in 1963.  That’s why your support is more critical than ever.   Please consider a gift this year.

In addition to crisis intervention, we provide grief support and our 2-1-1 line which helps people make timely connections to safety-new resources.  And to support the safety net, we recently added Share the Spirit and Corporate Volunteer Week.  Donors like you make this possible, alongside our dedicated board, volunteers and staff.  Together we create a safety net for anyone in need, whatever their income, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or citizenship status. 

Rob Park, board member, has seen the value of safety-net services firsthand.

He is a psychologist at Kaiser Permanente, working with children, adolescents, and families throughout Contra Costa County.  He knows how emotional stress and catastrophic events impact individuals and families.

Rob said, “The Crisis Center is such an important safety-net for the entire county.  Working in the mental health field, I understand the vital role a crisis intervention volunteer fills when someone is in deep distress.  What I didn’t know is that volunteers and staff receive calls from individuals and families in all types of crisis – from homelessness and food insecurity to joblessness, elder abuse and drug addiction.  Staff maintains an extensive database so we can provide current information on local services.”

“What surprised me most is that this critical work is not fully publicly funded.  That means each year, to keep these call lines open, the Crisis enter needs to reach out and ask our donors to support this life affirming work.  I’ve never viewed myself as a fundraiser, but I am inspired by our dedicated staff and volunteers.  The Crisis Center is an amazing asset to the community and I want people to know about it and support this work.

Our trained volunteers, dedicated staff and generous donors, like you, keep our work alive so we can be here when needed.  In 2017, we’ve received 23,738 calls on the 2-1-1 line from people seeking basic assistance or shelter.  Our crisis lines received 20,626 crisis intervention calls.

Please give generously.  Your donations shares light and hope with the lives of so many.  On behalf of the Crisis Center volunteers, board, and staff, I thank you for your support.

 

Sincerely,

Mary Vradelis, Interim Executive Director

This year’s events remind us the unexpected and unthinkable can happen at any time.  Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone touched by tragedy.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, the devastating wildfires caused untold destruction and loss of life.  They’ve left many feeling vulnerable and anxious.

Where would you turn in a time of crisis for support?  Who listens to your fears?

We do.  Our Crisis Center volunteers are here to help and to listen, just as they have since we first opened in 1963.  That’s why your support is more critical than ever.   Please consider a gift this year.

In addition to crisis intervention, we provide grief support and our 2-1-1 line which helps people make timely connections to safety-new resources.  And to support the safety net, we recently added Share the Spirit and Corporate Volunteer Week.  Donors like you make this possible, alongside our dedicated board, volunteers and staff.  Together we create a safety net for anyone in need, whatever their income, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or citizenship status. 

Steve Grimes Volunteers at the Crisis Center seeking meaningful connections and the opportunity to help people.

“I learned firsthand about the Crisis Center years ago,” he said, “when my son Kevin passed away from a rare medical condition.  We were on a Scout outing when it happened and it sent him into septic shock.  He was almost 16.  Kevin’s mother and I didn’t know if we’d survive.  After trying other resources, we found the Crisis Center offered 8-week grief sessions.  We went to two, back to back, and they really helped.  I knew even then that when I retired I’d volunteer here.”

“Now,” he added, “after 40 years with PG&E, where I always loved connecting with and helping people, I am making a difference in people’s lives as a crisis line volunteer.  The training and mentoring, with professional staff to guide you through is great.  Whether I am answering calls for our 211 information and referral line or one of the crisis lines, this work brings balance and connection.  You come to know what is most important in life.”

Our trained volunteers, dedicated staff and generous donors, like you, keep our work alive so we can be here when needed.  In 2017, we’ve received 23,738 calls on the 2-1-1 line from people seeking basic assistance or shelter.  Our crisis lines received 20,626 crisis intervention calls.

Please give generously.  Your donations shares light and hope with the lives of so many.  On behalf of the Crisis Center volunteers, board, and staff, I thank you for your support.

 

Sincerely,

Mary Vradelis, Interim Executive Director

This year’s events remind us the unexpected and unthinkable can happen at any time.  Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone touched by tragedy.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, the devastating wildfires caused untold destruction and loss of life.  They’ve left many feeling vulnerable and anxious.

Where would you turn in a time of crisis for support?  Who listens to your fears?

We do.  Our Crisis Center volunteers are here to help and to listen, just as they have since we first opened in 1963.  That’s why your support is more critical than ever.   Please consider a gift this year.

In addition to crisis intervention, we provide grief support and our 2-1-1 line which helps people make timely connections to safety-new resources.  And to support the safety net, we recently added Share the Spirit and Corporate Volunteer Week.  Donors like you make this possible, alongside our dedicated board, volunteers and staff.  Together we create a safety net for anyone in need, whatever their income, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or citizenship status. 

As the Crisis & 211 Call Center Manager, Lesley Garcia, shares Steve’s enthusiasm.

Initially volunteering on the suicide prevention hotline, she soon joined the staff, right after finishing her BA in psychology.  She said, “In my teens, I lost a family member to suicide and wanted to learn how to help other people.  Volunteering was so fulfilling.  To hear and learn from peoples’s stories and provide support.”

She left to continue her education and pursue a Masters in Counseling, then worked in the Oakland Diocese as a counselor for 9 years.  A position opened at the Crisis Center just when she wanted a change.  She smiled and added, “Some of the same staff were still here.  It felt like coming home.”

She continued, “I am impressed with the diversity and experience of the call center volunteers – from such varied backgrounds and aged 21 to 70!  I’ve learned so much from them and gained a rich perspective on life.  I love getting up and going to work each morning.  It’s a life-changing experience.  I can’t change the world, but I can change a lot of little worlds.”

Our trained volunteers, dedicated staff and generous donors, like you, keep our work alive so we can be here when needed.  In 2017, we’ve received 23,738 calls on the 2-1-1 line from people seeking basic assistance or shelter.  Our crisis lines received 20,626 crisis intervention calls.

Please give generously.  Your donations shares light and hope with the lives of so many.  On behalf of the Crisis Center volunteers, board, and staff, I thank you for your support.

 

Sincerely,

Mary Vradelis, Interim Executive Director

 

Susan Platt: Call Specialist & Mobile Grief Response Team Volunteer

Susan Platt became interested in volunteering for the Contra Costa Crisis Center 11 years ago when she began her search for a more meaningful and fulfilling life – one that included a charitable component.

What was her first impression of the Crisis Center? “It was an intimidating experience because of the huge responsibility I would have on the call line to the people in distress. Of course, the training was thorough and we were able to practice until we felt competent.  I made a leap of faith believing that I could do this work, trusted myself and my colleagues, and fell in love with the whole organization.”

Susan trained in Crisis and Grief Counseling; she worked in the Call Center and was also part of the Grief Support team for nearly five years. A few years ago, she began working with the Crisis Center’s Spousal Support Grief Groups as well as the Mobile Postvention Team. “I have been trained so thoroughly in so many areas, I feel that I can jump in anywhere I’m needed. Ultimately, this diverse training has allowed me to join other county agencies and assist in a variety of roles as needed – I cannot express how grateful I am to the Crisis Center for what they have taught me.”

Susan’s friends often express to her that the work sounds depressing, sad and overwhelming; they  wonder how she handles this weight.  While Susan does not dismiss the seriousness of these crisis
situations, she doesn’t experience these interactions with callers and clients as depressing. She says, “I am them. I’m just currently in a bit of a different place. Everything they are experiencing, I have, am
or will experience as well.  And, this is the reality of a life fully lived; I embrace it and learn from it. At some point in a crisis call, you recognize whether this is regarding a potential suicide, homelessness, a job loss, mental illness, a family crisis or any number of tragedies or difficulties. As I’m listening, I’m also recognizing that it could be me on the other end of the line. As I realize the connections I have with others, the similarity of circumstances and the shared humanity, I no longer have the idea of ‘helping’
or ‘giving back’ – I simply realize we are basically all the same and I can relate to what’s being said to me and learn about myself through this process. In essence, I live it with them.”

Susan’s wish for society is that it somehow changes its antiquated, judgmental and painfully ignorant attitude about mental illness. She says. “The stigma attached to those who experience mental illness is
sad and causes immeasurable pain to those who suffer. Additionally, the distress people feel when confronted with crisis, but are unable to seek help because of the stigma attached to needing help, is
damaging, counterproductive and completely unnecessary. I want us to allow people to feel unashamed regarding their illnesses or their need to seek emotional support.”

Susan sees a societal dichotomy: there is an increase in the population’s distress, along with a decrease in people’s ability to find solace. She says, “We are more divided, it seems, than ever before – philosophically, politically, financially. Bullying is on the rise, suicide is epidemic, poverty is increasing, children are in emotional danger more than in the past, drug and alcohol abuse are on the rise – people seem more distressed and agitated than in the past, and our social and coping skills seem to be decreasing as the need for them increases. I am quite disturbed about the level of self-destruction I
see around me, and lament that we are not more educated and enlightened about the need for health care – both physical and mental.”

Susan feels that the Crisis Center is part of the answer to some of the dilemmas mentioned above. She says, “This agency is superbly managed with integrity, stability, kindness and an ongoing commitment
to education and training. Its influence extends to clients, staff and volunteers – how we feel about the work we do and how we treat each other. Since Rhonda James took the helm, I have felt her steadiness, her vision, her commitment, and of course her delicious sense of humor. I know she and the staff she has chosen have my best interest in mind as well as everyone we serve. I take enormous pride in working with this incredible community resource, and I am dedicated to its continuance.

’13 Reasons Why’ you should be talking to your teen

On March 31st, Netflix released season 1 of “13 Reasons Why” and has recently announced season 2 is in the works.  The show, based on a book of the same title by Jay Asher, follows a series of teenagers confronted with the fallout of one of their schoolmate’s suicide. The series covers a range of topics including substance use, in-person and cyber bullying, mental health, sexual assault, driving while intoxicated, and ultimately, suicide. Many adults and school administrators may feel overwhelmed or at a loss with how to start a conversation with a young person about the show and its complex content.

Talking about suicide, does not cause suicide.

One of the biggest fears we hear from adults is that talking with youth about suicide and suicide prevention will “give someone the idea” to complete a suicide.  Research has shown time and time again, that talking about suicide does not “introduce” the idea to young people.  In fact, starting a conversation about suicide and other complex social topics raised in ’13 Reasons Why’ can actually bring relief to those who are wrestling with thoughts of suicide and bring the conversation and possible ways to address the underlying issues into the open.

While we believe that talking openly about the complex issue of suicide and suicide prevention, we must caution that the show is not intended for all audiences.  As indicated by its TV-MA rating, the content is intended for mature audiences.  We do encourage parents and caregivers to watch with their teens, and avoid binge watching to allow time for processing the heavy content.  Those who are vulnerable, or may be triggered by the content should practice good self-care and avoid watching altogether.

May is also Mental Health Month– another great reason to start a conversation and break down the stigma and shame that can prevent some individuals from getting help.  To learn more about how to start a conversation with a young person check out the links below.

To learn more about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, click here.

 

melissa

Meeting Melissa today, you might never imagine the challenges she’s faced- two deployments to Iraq, traumatic brain injury, sexual trauma, self-doubt and plans of suicide. This vibrant, upbeat mother of three made it through some very dark times. She’ll be the first to say, that the things that happen to you do not define you. How you get through them makes the difference.

Her hardest lesson came from learning that healing is a journey that requires the strength of vulnerability and honesty, accepting support rather than bare-knuckled courage alone. During her time in Iraq, her Army unit was hit in a mortar attack and she and others were injured. The blast threw Melissa into the air, landing her on her head. She was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury disorder that required months of speech/language therapy to regain her full range of communication skills. It was during that period that Melissa suffered sexual trauma. “Life in Iraq has its own everyday stressors. Adding trauma on top of that makes it very difficult.”

As a young, single-mother, Melissa left her toddler in the care of her own mom, so Melissa could fulfill her military obligation in Iraq. Melissa stayed in close contact with both her mother and thanks to technology, a dear friend stateside. All of them, sharing stories of Melissa’s daughter’s growth, swapping photos and simply staying in touch, kept the connection strong. Melissa and her friend Skyped regularly, at the same time of each day, until the day Melissa refused to answer. Feeling hopeless and overwhelmed, Melissa made up her mind that this would be the day she would end her life. The Skype ringtone sounded and Melissa let it ring. “I remember, my friend continued to call me back. She just kept calling…Finally, I felt so annoyed by that Skype ringtone that I answered. She talked me through it – that day, and the many days that followed.”

Melissa is an Army vet, with 10 years of active duty and today holds a position as a dedicated public servant in our community. She is alive and well, available for her family because her friend wouldn’t stop calling, and never stopped listening.

Our crisis counselors are here providing help and hope 24/7 for 63,000 callers like Melissa each year. Your generous donation today supports our entire community all year long.

We answer every call and we never stop listening.

With gratitude,

Rhonda James, MA, LMFT

Executive Director

about-sids SUDS and SUID Awareness Month

October is national Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) awareness month.  Approximately 3,500 infants died unexpectedly in 2014 making SUID the leading cause of death for infants under one year of age. The stories may be different, the acronyms used may be different, but the end result is a devastating loss.

We have learned a lot about safe sleep practices, environmental risk factors, and protective factors that seem to help reduce the rates of SIDS over the last 30 years. But there are many things that we still don’t know and significant research being conducted in the areas of neurobiology and serotonin levels in the brain.

A quiet grief

“Why? I just want to know why my baby died.” is the most common first response we hear from SIDS parents and caregivers who reach out to the Crisis Center for support. Shock, confusion, denial, anger, guilt, depression, physical pain- the long list of grief responses all apply to parents facing SIDS or SUID crisis. pexels-photo-69096

It takes meaningful support to resolve parental grief and it can take time and emotional space to even consider the question of having another child, to open up to a subsequent potential loss.

 

The support necessary to help families put their lives back together comes from family, from friends, from medical professionals, but also comes from organizations like the Crisis Center.  We offer free and confidential 24/7 grief telephone support and counseling for our local community and provide all after-hours call support for the California Department of Public Health’s SIDS Program.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a SIDS or SUID experience, regardless of when the loss occurred, you can call us.  If you or someone you care about needs information about what a SIDS/SUID parent might be experiencing or how to support a grieving parent or caregiver, click here.

Does talking about thoughts of suicide increase the risk that someone will act on those thoughts?

We know that most people who die by suicide SAY they are having thoughts of suicide before they attempt suicide.  And, as the 10th leading cause of adult death and the 2nd leading cause of youth death in the U.S. we have to talk about suicide. 

None of the 13 studies reviewed in a recent article published in Psychological Medicine found that talking about suicide increased suicide ideation.  In fact many of these 13 studies found that asking the questions improved mental health in individuals who sought treatment.

Start a conversation and help stop suicide.

The Movember Foundation shared a video about the power of talking about suicide as part of their efforts to raise awareness during World Suicide Prevention Day.