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Ready to Listen: REAL Crisis Intervention

This is the first in a series profiling organizations doing good work in the community.

by Alana Baker
Guardian contributor

Despair, grief, anger, depression, fear—these are things most people feel at some point or another in life. Many of us have resources, places and people to help us through hard times. Some people, however, have no place to go, or do not recognize the resources they do have.

Internet photo.

REAL Crisis Intervention Center, 1011 Anderson Street. Greenville, NC. Internet photo.

In Greenville, there is a place for anyone to find the help and the listening ear they need—REAL Crisis Intervention. REAL serves as both a walk-in and call center for people to talk to professional counselors or trained team members about anything. Mary Smith, Executive Director, describes REAL as “kind of an emergency room for emotional assistance. We help people get through a particular point in time to where they need to be.” The services at REAL, including referral services, advocacy and education, are completely free and confidential—with no eligibility requirement.

To handle calls about suicide, marital disputes, depression and veterans’ crises, to name just a few, the center has 14 staff and about 25 active volunteer counselors. Every counselor undergoes more than 72 hours of rigorous training, reinforced monthly through workshops and “field trips,” as Smith calls them, to facilities where their callers are referred.

One of the most remarkable aspects of REAL Crisis Intervention is that counselors are on-site 24/7 to take calls. Walk-in services are available 8am-11pm, Monday through Sunday. Smith said, “We are always here and we will help anybody. We have really great counselors who are very passionate about what they do.”

In addition to being part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—NSPL’s only affiliated site in North Carolina—Smith informed me that REAL is also the only crisis center in the state accredited by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). AAS accreditation requires not only meticulous data submission and record-keeping, but mandates site visits as well. To help businesses, schools or other agencies that want to increase their employees’ understanding of suicide and prevention methods, REAL offers specialized workshops.

REAL_Crisis_LogoREAL is also one of just three crisis centers in the nation that acts as a back-up to the Veterans’ Crisis Line, though “back-up” seems like an understatement. Smith said, “We normally take almost 1,500 calls a month just from veterans. These calls come from anywhere in the world—wherever there is a military base, veterans can access the Veterans’ Crisis Line, and likely a counselor at REAL.”

Another mission of REAL is to work with victims of sexual assault. “We are part of the Sexual Assault Response Team—along with police, hospital and judicial authorities. We all come together and support the victim.” REAL counselors make follow-up calls to check in with the victim—even helping them to secure new housing should they need it. Counselors also help victims begin talking with their families.

When asked what the Greenville community could do to support REAL Crisis Intervention, Smith said, “Any support this community can give us, whether through volunteering or through dollars, or attending fundraisers—it keeps the lights on so we can do our jobs. We appreciate the 43 years of support our community has given to REAL. We could not do our work without their generosity.”

To find out more about REAL fundraising events or how to donate, check out Greenville/Pitt County Public Access Television (GPAT) on Channel 23. REAL is part of the Pitt Resource Connection, which airs programs on GPAT each Tuesday and on Fridays. Find information on volunteering or donating at the REAL website,

Call REAL any time, day or night, at 252-758-4357, or stop in to 1011 Anderson Street in Greenville, Monday through Sunday between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. REAL is one block off 10th Street opposite Joyner Library.

Alana Baker is a PhD student in Rhetoric, Writing and Professional Communication at East Carolina University.

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