The Birmingham Crisis Center: talking does help

The Birmingham Crisis Center: talking does help

Crises Center

Talking does help.

The Birmingham Crisis Center’s simple motto seeks to very simply convey its mission to Central Alabama, to serve the unmet needs of people experiencing personal crisis or mental health issues and respond with services that promote coping, emotional health and well being.

“We are a safe place,” said Valerie Shayman, the Crisis and Suicide Line Program Coordinator at the Crisis Center. “Our staff and volunteers pride themselves in making sure this is a non-judgmental, safe, and comfortable atmosphere so all of our clients can receive the support they need and deserve.”

And its clients are indeed the Crisis Center’s first priority. As the Center provides support services over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and has been in operation since 1970, it is clear that the Center is committed to maintaining a safe environment for their clients.

The Crisis Center offers several different specialized programs with which it serves its clients. They include the Crisis and Suicide Line (with recently added texting and instant messaging), age-specific lines including Teen Link, Kids’ Help Line and the Senior Talk Line, a Rape Response line (along with other services for victims including exams, legal advocacy and counseling), a Payee Program and the Piper Place Day Program, which offers mental health services.

With so many areas of service, the Crisis Center is always in need of volunteers.

“We’re looking for you!” Shayman said. “We are interested in a wide variety of volunteers! Key traits that work best in our programs are open-minds, nonjudgmental attitudes, patience and a willingness to help others.”

Samford Seniors Emily Bruchas and Ali Rames have been volunteering at the Crisis Center this semester as part of their Family Studies curriculum at Samford University.

“Volunteering at the Crisis Center has given me first hand experience in counseling,” Rames said. “I love being able to make a difference in someone’s life, whether that means helping them through a situation, or simply listening to them talk.”

Bruchas further explained the importance of a listening ear. “I’ve realized that even as a student I can help individuals deal with the current problem in their life. However, I’ve also realized many people just need someone to talk to, especially the elderly. It makes me re-evaluate what we need to do in society to give everyone a full and healthy life,” she said.

After the prospective volunteer completes an application on the Crisis Center’s website, an interview is scheduled with the appropriate coordinator. Volunteers then complete extensive training, which is designed to help the new volunteer be prepared for a variety of circumstances.

“We include group discussion, role-play, and multimedia in our training,” Shayman said. “All volunteers complete ‘shadow shifts’ as well. During a shadow shift, the new volunteer has the opportunity to observe calls or Rape Response cases as they occur to help them feel more prepared for when they begin working cases or taking calls on their own.”

For more information about the Crisis Center or to find out how you can get involved as a volunteer, visit