Lines for Life offers Racial Equity Support Line staffed with people with lived experience of racism

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 5:57 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - When someone experiences racism, it can seriously harm their mental health and their physical health too.

“It’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to reach out for help,” Darryl Turpin, a consultant for Lines for Life’s Equity and Cultural Engagement Division, said.

“When the body releases cortisol, which is our natural reaction, it’s a sugary enzyme that’s released when the body senses danger. The cumulative effect of the release of that sugary substance could make you more susceptible to diseases like cardiovascular, CVD, hypertension and diabetes,” Turpin said. “That could be why Black men for example have the highest rates of hypertension in the world.”

But, when these traumatic experiences happen, who can you call to talk through it? And what resources are available to address what happened? Lines for Life launched their Racial Equity Support Line in 2020, so people of color can talk with trained clinical counselors who have experienced racism or microaggressions, which might make someone more comfortable sharing what happened to them.

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“I always reassure them that the person they’re going to connect with is a person of color and they feel very relieved about that,” Danielle Holmstrom, a Crisis Intervention Specialist for the Racial Equity Support Line, said. “I think that’s one of the reasons people call, especially our repeat callers. They kind of know what to expect and they know that no matter which crisis support worker they get they will be supported, that that person resembles them in some aspect.”

When you dial 503-575-3764, you’ll reach one of 25 counselors like Holmstrom. Their line is open 10:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and you have to be 18 or older to call.

Right now, they said they’re getting 45 calls a month.

“My role is once again, to meet them where they’re at and kind of collab with them to see how I can support them, no matter if it’s just me listening to them during their call or listening to them and providing resources if they feel they need to take it to a higher level,” Holmstrom said.

She and her colleagues have heard an array of situations from callers from racism and discrimination in schools to workplaces and the healthcare system. She said next steps all depend on each caller.

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“I had a caller just this week that was talking about the high death rates for African American women and they were going over their traumatic births and so I’m linking them with resources that are outside of the norm like midwives and doulas,” Holmstrom said.

However, she said you don’t just have to call when something bad happens, you can always reach out just to talk to someone.

“If you just need someone to connect with, to vent to, to be like, ‘Hey, do you remember, you know, the Kool-Aid man?’ or something like that, it doesn’t have to be a serious topic to justify calling us,” Holmstrom said.