A day in the life of a Carelon Behavioral Health crisis call center counselor

Kerri Corrigan is a Carelon Behavioral Health crisis call center counselor who provides emotional support to individuals who contact the crisis helpline. She discusses her job, how she helps people de-escalate crisis situations, and what inspires her in her work.


What is your job like?

Every day is different. I respond to incoming texts or chats from people experiencing crisis situations in the state of Georgia. While I can and do work with anyone, I most commonly interact with teens and young adults since they tend to gravitate more towards text and chat communications.

What is your background?

I began my career working with young kids in the school system, eventually moving into case management for veterans. I have always had a passion for suicide prevention, personally and professionally. I believe that when a person is in crisis, getting someone to hear their story is sometimes all it takes for them to be able to fight one more minute.

When people contact you, what types of issues are they facing?

It is important to note that a person defines their crisis. I don’t get to determine what a crisis is for someone. However, what an effective crisis counselor does is to tap into the emotions that the person is feeling. They may feel lost or lonely. Everybody has their own triggers and warning signs.

Crises may include breakups, betrayals, custody losses, family struggles, oppressive loneliness, legal issues, or any multitude of problems that cause someone to feel hopelessness. I hear a variety of stories and help a variety of people at different points in their experiences.

The sooner that someone in crisis reaches out, the better off they are, to keep them from spiraling downward. When they reach out, I guide them towards their own next best solution.

How do you help people de-escalate crisis situations?

I hear them and appreciate their pain. When they say that they want to die, what I am hearing is that they want to stop the pain. I do my best to demonstrate respect without judgment. I try to get them to tell me what their ideal life looks like and discuss the pieces they can build on to get there.

My first goal is to get them to make it through the night, to calm their breathing and their thoughts. After that, I work with the person on determining whether they still need the crisis call center to contact them in the morning, and if we need to reach back out. Maybe we need to send mobile crisis or get the person’s family members or friends involved. Maybe we need to talk to the person’s school counselor if family isn’t an option. I try to learn how the person talks about their mental health concerns to best help them seek a support system. In some cases, we arrange for the person to visit the emergency department for an evaluation.

Is there a case that stands out for you, in which you have made the most difference?

A young man reached out, whose partner had just broken up with him. His partner had found out that she was pregnant, and had left him to move a few states away to be closer to her family. The young man had become so distraught that he had stopped going to work, lost his job, and lost his apartment. He now had no income, no place to live, had lost love of his life, and was not part of his child’s life. He was also estranged from his own family.

I spent over two and a half hours on chat with him that morning. At the end of our chat, after listening to him, I was able to connect him with resources. I put him in touch with a fatherhood initiative, so that he could connect with other fathers and advocate for himself. I connected him to a young adult employment program through a local employment commission. I found him youth and young adult services that would help him find a place to live. I connected him to community resources for mental health care.

At the end of the chat, he let me know in his last message that I had saved his life.

What inspires you in your work?

My biggest inspiration is knowing that I’m doing important work. I have had my own struggles, and I lost a loved one to suicide. This person did not feel she had anyone safe enough to talk to about her struggles. That was a turning point that impacted me.

I came to a point in my life where I embraced that people had always looked to me for support, and I took that forward.

What else can you share about your role?

While we as crisis counselors have been trained in suicide prevention, what really makes us good at our jobs is our empathy. We are most effective in our roles when we make people feel unjudged and able to share, when they have nowhere else to turn.

When people have a safe space in which they can speak to their despair, they can then see what is worth living for. As crisis counselors, we tap into that feeling, and help individuals in crisis build on that.

The people who contact the crisis call centers are the true heroes. They have more strength than people could ever give them credit for, by holding on and reaching out for help when they are at their lowest point.

I just listen without dismissiveness so that the people who contact me do not have to sit as their own independent island. I am honored that they share with me, as it takes everything for them to seek help, and take that first step towards a different outcome.