When there is a two or three minute break between phone calls at Seattle's Crisis Clinic, it's considered a lull. Last year alone some 236,000 calls for help came in from people losing their homes, their families, their hope.
"You get so many of them, but you still kind of go 'holy cow' every time you get a suicide call," said Allison Maus as she worked her shift Tuesday afternoon. For the past seven years Maus, a retired flight attendant, has volunteered on the suicide prevention line.
And the calls never stop coming.
"They're really, really hurting," said Maus. "You do all you can to help them, and just hope it's enough."
For Maus the work is intensely personal. She has lost friends to suicide, and a cousin she loved dearly. Maus counsels countless desperate strangers because she knows how it feels to be left behind.
"I give them all I've got because I know how painful it is for everybody else when they do die."
This is Crisis Clinic's 50th year. It was one of the first in the nation and has expanded to help people on the verge of homelessness, legal problems, health crises and myriad other issues through King County's 211 phone system.
With government cuts the need has increased exponentially.
"I believe we can save lives if people just know there is somebody they can talk to in that moment of hopelessless," said Crisis Clinic's Director of Crisis Services Michael Reading. "We can save lives, but we need help to make that happen."
With every call, Allison Maus simply tries to help restore the hope her cousin could never recover.
"I just think maybe I can reach this person because I know they want help."
24-Hour Crisis Line
King County 2-1-1
Dial 2-1-1 or
800-621-4636 (M-F 8am-6pm)
WA Recovery Help Line
866-TEEN-LINK (Evenings 6-10pm)