Wednesday, July 12, 2017


In the 1970s I volunteered for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. I received eight weeks of training and after completing the training,  I was interviewed by the psychiatrist Dr. Marx before being allowed to deal 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 sometimes attracted troubled people to be volunteers). 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 supposed to work only one year because of burn-out. When my assignment was nearly over, 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 had me at blandishments!"

The most interesting case I had: I was working second shift; my session at the Hotline was after work between 12:00 AM and 4:00 AM;   most suicides happen after 12:00 midnight. 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 that 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.  I alerted my leader about the situation.  The following 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.

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