Karen Easter, Executive Director of REACHOUT of St. Lawrence County, is truly a pioneer in the field of crisis hotline and mobil crisis intervention. Dave and I visited Karen on a rainy Thursday afternoon after a hectic work week. I had been quickly moving from one task to the next, and I went into this interview ready to check the next job off of my list of things to do. I prepared questions on topics like what REACHOUT was and what to expect if I called the hotline. What kind of training do their staff go through? How could I help if someone that I knew was having suicidal ideations; what do I look for, what do I say?
When we arrived at REACHOUT we were surprised to find ourselves not entering an office, but instead a home.
"When we needed to move off campus back in 1989, we knew we wanted a building that felt like a home. We thought that volunteers needed to work in a place that felt comfortable, cozy, and safe - somewhere they could belong. They talk to lots of people who do not feel any of those things, and I think our folks can do a better job of helping callers feel and be comfortable and safe if they are comfortable and safe."
~ Karen Easter
We walked through their door and immediately felt like we were welcomed into their home. After getting to know each other a little bit we sat down at her kitchen table, turned on our microphones, and I pulled out my list - and then I set it aside and never looked at it again. Instead we simply began a conversation, and Karen's empathy, caring, and passion for the work that she does captivated both Dave and I.
Karen has devoted more than forty years of her life to making these services available to residents of St. Lawrence County, and she has traveled all over to help educate and train others on the topic of suicide intervention. Her son, Hollis, shares that same passion and has followed in Karen's footsteps, working toward the same mission.
I expected an informative interview, which we certainly got from Karen, but what I didn't expect were the emotions that came along with that. We spoke about how many of us are affected by suicide, and I was unexpectedly reminded of the ways that suicide has impacted my own life.
Karen spoke about the ways that we can all help and support anyone that is going through difficult times, and that is simply just to listen and talk. Most times that just might be enough to help. Karen shared a music video with me that she wanted to share with our listeners.
"First time I heard it, it just bowled me over. Who can help a person with thoughts of suicide? Does the helper in the video have a PhD in clinical psychology? Well, you can't rule it out, but... most likely not."
~ Karen Easter
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, or simply needs to talk then REACHOUT of St. Lawrence County is there to listen with empathy and support. REACHOUT is a free, confidential, non-judgmental crisis and information hotline serving residents of St. Lawrence County.
After visiting with Karen I believe that you could not ask for a more caring and empathetic ear.
Director of Wellness and Recovery Services
S.T.E.P. by S.T.E.P., Inc.
REACHOUT of St. Lawrence County
After hours and weekend emergencies.
You can also visit the St. Lawrence County Government website to find a list of local Mental Health Service Providers including:=
Outpatient Treatment Inpatient Treatment Vocational Services Peer Support Services/Psychosocial Clubs Residential Services Children’s Respite Services Addiction Services