Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I volunteered for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. I received eight weeks of training and then I had to be interviewed by the psychiatrist Dr. Marx before dealing with actual people. When I met Dr. Marx, after our introductions, I asked if he were related to Zeppo or Karl. He laughed and said, "That was good; people usually ask if I'm related to Groucho." I laughed and said, "Too common!" Dr. Marx said, "I hear that you are uncommon!" I told him I liked to think so.
Dr. Marx asked me a great number of questions with standard ones such as why I would like to be a volunteer [I learned later that the Hotline attracted crazy people sometimes!]. Dr. Marx was sitting on the edge of his chair, looking in my eyes very intently and then he asked, "What's the worst thing anybody could ever say about you?" I didn't hesitate a moment and said, "If someone said I were lazy!" Dr. Marx almost fell off the edge of his chair, but put his hand flat on the floor to prevent his fall. He was laughing. I asked why it was amusing and he said, "I've been a psychiatrist for 20 years and I've asked that question of hundreds of women, but I never heard that answer before!" I asked what women usually said and he answered that they would be upset if someone said they were a slut or other terms such as that. I said, "Oh, that's sex--that's so unimportant!"
A volunteer was only supposed to work a year because of burn-out. When my assignment was nearly over and Dr. Marx called me to his office and told me what a wonderful job I'd done and he asked if I could stay another term. I asked, "Couldn't you get anybody else?" He said, "You see, I should have just told you the truth instead of trying blandishments!" I said, "You got me by USING the word blandishments!"
The most interesting case I had: I was working second shift; my session at the Hotline was after work between 12:00am to 4:00 am and most suicides happen after 12:00 am! One night I answered the phone and after a few minutes of discussion I realized that I actually KNEW the person I was talking to and he worked in my department! There was nobody else available to serve him; I had to deal with the awkward situation. Fortunately, I did not have him work for me directly, so I was able to manage the situation. The next night he called again and asked to talk to the "nice lady" but he was told I wasn't there! Of course at work I couldn't betray his confidence but I sure watched out for his behavior!