KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Following the tragic suicide deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, metro crisis centers have seen a surge in calls from people in need of help.
At Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence, volunteers have seen a 41 percent increase in calls from all across Kansas over the last week compared to an average week last year.
On Tuesday, Director of Development Allan Bunch told 41 Action News that the surge has led to a busy time for volunteers.
“We had a lot of extra volunteers coming in. There was a volunteer at every phone in the building,” he said. “The phone just didn’t stop ringing.”
News of both Spade and Bourdain’s deaths sparked conversation around the world about suicide and raised awareness about resources available for those in need of help.
Here in the metro, Bunch said the increase in calls wasn't a bad thing.
"There were a lot of people who wanted to reach out and who wanted to talk about how they were feeling. We see that as a wonderful thing," he said. "It’s not because everybody suddenly discovered they needed to talk to someone. It was that a national suicide prevention lifeline actually existed."
Bunch told 41 Action News that many of the callers last week described how shocked they were over Spade and Bourdain’s deaths.
“It felt like a cause and effect when Kate Spade died that I think we had a few more middle-aged white women call that day,” he explained. “It was just that sense of shock. How could somebody like this that I look up to have killed themselves?”
Bunch added that calls into the center did not tend to be from a specific age group or demographic.
“It’s teenagers, it’s senior citizens, it’s white, black, Indian,” he described.
Volunteers work 24/7 at the facility in Lawrence inside a small room with couches, comfort food, and words of encouragement on the walls.
On Tuesday, 41 Action News witnessed at least three calls come in from people in need of help.
For those who take the calls, what follows is a serious and personal experience.
“You have to be able to really hear. Not just what they’re saying on the surface but also hear what they’re saying underneath,” said one volunteer. “As long as you have a normal amount of empathy and are willing to learn deeper listening skills, this is something you can do.”
Bunch added that one of the most important things people can do to help others in need is to listen to their situation.
“If I tell you, ‘Oh, it’ll be okay, it’ll get better,’ I’m not listening to you,” he said. “It’s really about shutting up and listening.”
Volunteers with the Headquarters Counseling Center are available to talk at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or at 785-841-2345.
People interested in helping out can donate or sign up to be a volunteer online.