988 hotline: Counselor's own grief helps others through crisis

Calls to 988 are always answered, but who is the person on the other end of the line? The call counselors are trained to help with any crisis the caller shares. 

"You do never know what to expect. You never know what’s coming at you," Chris Bevins has spent 20 years working with trauma patients. 

"Each step along my journey gave me another skill-set to be able to confidently answer whatever comes on the other end of the phone," Bevins said. 

She became a call counselor in August 2020. In July 2022, Bevins was part of the Wisconsin LifeLine Team that started answering all 988 calls in the state. 

"One of the things that you learn here is, the crisis is whatever the caller says it is," Bevins said. 

Chris Bevins

988 is the Suicide and Crisis hotline. Bevins says the first thing she does is make sure the caller is safe. "Sometimes they’re sobbing or crying so hard they can’t get words out. They’re angry and screaming," Bevins told FOX6. 

Even though it’s over the phone, Bevins says she builds a relationship with the caller. She says this allows them to feel comfortable to share what led them to call. Most of the time, Bevins says callers just want to be heard. 

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"I think that’s the biggest gift that we give, listening is the biggest gift," Bevins said. 

Chris Bevins

Even when the words on the other end are the most challenging to hear. Bevins knows this firsthand. In December 2020, she was at work when she got the call that her husband died. 

"He had stayed home sick on Monday. He had Tuesdays off, he told me he was going to work on Wednesday morning," Bevins said. 

That Wednesday Bevins said she came in early for work and her daughters called that afternoon to tell her the news. 

"He had a heart attack on Monday, but he had a pacemaker, so he didn’t know he had a heart attack until after he was dead," Bevins told FOX6. 

With all her experience, Bevins knew her family needed help. She connected her kids with a grief counselor and as a family they went through grief counseling. Bevins says she taps into her own life experiences as a call counselor. 

"I’m now here for the next widow who lost her husband. I’m there for the mom who’s struggling to take care of her kids. I’m here for the kid who lost their dad because I know what that’s like," Bevins said. 

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And she knows how to help them find hope. 

"For me the most rewarding part is the ‘aha.’ There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s ‘I didn’t have hope five minutes ago, but right now I see a possibility that if I hadn’t picked up my phone I wouldn’t have thought of on my own," Bevins said. 

Chris Bevins

Those moments are why Bevins keeps answering the call to help. 

"This is my passion. Working to help people, support people, to get them what they need so that whatever they have going on doesn’t become a trauma, doesn’t become a crisis, a suicide attempt. That is what I am all about," Bevins said. 

365 days a year, 24 hours a day and seven days a week 988 call counselors like Bevins are there. You can call, text or chat with a counselor anytime.