by Leslie McCrea–
In a time of need, some people may find themselves feeling alone or at a loss of who to talk to. At the Raft Crisis Hotline, there is always somebody on the other end of the phone, ready to listen.
Raft is a program of New River Valley Community Services, and offers free over-the-phone counseling to those in immediate need. The hotline was created to serve Montgomery, Floyd, Giles and Pulaski counties, as well as Radford, but calls occasionally come in from as far as Rhode Island and California.
In order to keep the program running, a well-trained staff is constantly maintained. All of the staff that answer calls for Raft are volunteers, including local citizens as well as many Virginia Tech students from the Psychology Department.
The services provided by Raft include suicide and crisis intervention, empathy and grief counseling, and substance abuse or mental health referrals. All volunteers are trained to deal with those core areas, and are expected to also receive calls from police officers or family members asking for information about those subjects. There are always clinicians on-call that serve as a resource for callers and volunteers.
Students who train to become Raft volunteers often earn field study credits for the time they spend volunteering. They are required to be 18 years or older, undergo a background check and complete all rounds of training, consisting of shadowing shifts and supervised shifts with a final test at the end.
Once they have been approved to work, volunteers may pick up shifts for any of the operating hours – often leaving them answering phones throughout odd hours of the night.
In this audio report, hear from two Psychology students, Beth Bralley and Bailey Carver, who have spent the first half of this semester training to be approved as Raft volunteers.