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.