By the end of this week, the Agora Crisis Center may reach a record 10,000 calls for the year, said Jeremy Jaramillo, ACC director of public relations.
Jaramillo said when he first started working at Agora nine years ago, the center received about 1,200 calls per year.
“We’ve been increasing steadily,” he said.
The Agora Crisis Center is an all-issue hotline that community members can call to talk about issues from everyday stress to suicides in progress. Volunteers listen to callers and refer them to community organizations for further treatment.
Jaramillo said there has been an increase in suicide-related calls and callers who talk about financial problems. He said the economy is to blame.
“Financial stressors complicate every other part of an individual’s life and therefore exacerbate people’s problems exponentially,” he said.
Jaramillo said the center recently began monitoring the number of callers with concerns about financial problems.
“For a while we didn’t track financial-related issues as something that people talk about because we didn’t have that ‘checkbox’ in our database,” he said. “I can tell you anecdotally that we’ve had a pretty big increase in that type of call.”
Danielle Gardner, an Agora volunteer, said the economy causes problems to pile up faster.
“Because of the economy, everyone is frustrated and stressed,” she said. “So we definitely see a lot of those and a lot more anxiety and depression over unemployment — and it’s kind of a snowball effect once the economy goes.”
Jaramillo said a fifth of the calls received are suicide related, which is somewhat above average.
“We have something like 3 to 6 percent of calls that are suicides in progress and about 21 to 25 percent of calls are people talking about suicide in some manner, shape or form, but aren’t planning on doing right then and there,” he said.
Gardner said she’s volunteered at the center four years and she can tell it’s gotten a lot busier.
“When I first started, there (were) two lines at Agora. Now there’s four, and we’re still constantly on the phone,” she said. “There’s more lines connected to Agora, so there’s double the calls.”
Jaramillo said the increase in calls is also caused by other factors, including increased volunteer recruiting efforts and increased outreach efforts informing community members about the center’s services.
Jaramillo said students are invited to call the hotline, especially with finals right around the corner.
“We can help students with life’s pressures that affect their academic success, and directly we can help them with academic stressors and get them to graduation,” he said.
Gardner said sometimes all people need is someone to listen to them, which they don’t always get from the people close to them.
“A lot of people at the end of the call say, ‘Thank you so much for listening,’ because a lot of people just don’t listen to them anymore,” she said. “A lot of people are just so busy with their own lives and with their own problems, and it’s nice to be able to call in somewhere where we just listen.”
*Agora Crisis Center