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15-10-2018, 15:06   #1
Boards.ie: Mark
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Now ye're talking - to a Helpline Volunteer

Our next guest is a helpline volunteer. They answer calls to people who are distressed, need emotional support or just someone to talk to - people in many emotional states.

If you are experiencing tough times, we would recommend speaking to someone. We have a list of organisations with people trained to help you in difficult times here: https://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/show...p?t=2057178293

If you have any questions for a helpline volunteer, please ask them below.
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15-10-2018, 15:10   #2
Redser87
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Fair play to you for doing this kind of voluntary work OP, it is so important.
How do you leave the work at the door when you leave, do you have a routine?
Have you ever recognised a voice at the other end of the line, e.g. a neighbour or colleague? What would you do if that happened?
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15-10-2018, 15:11   #3
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What kind of training and/or qualifications do you need?
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15-10-2018, 15:15   #4
Cockadoodledoo
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Do you get many prank phone calls? Do you have to continue even if you know it’s a prank?
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15-10-2018, 15:16   #5
Gwen Cooper
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Hi there,

Thank you for doing this. I just want to say how much I admire people who are on these helplines. I had a mental breakdown when I was 18, alone in the middle of nowhere, with no way of getting to the hospital. I was ready to kill myself. I rang a helpline and spoke to a lovely lady for over an hour. She saved my life, just by talking to me, listening to me, acknowledging that my problems are real and legitimate. She talked me into getting help. She talked to me when nobody else would. I don't know if I would still be here if it weren't for her and the helpline. I don't even know her name.

On behalf of anyone who ever needed to dial that number, THANK YOU. You're so massively important in this day and age and I will never stop being grateful for having access to this service in the middle of the night 12 years ago when I decided that I don't want to exist anymore.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
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15-10-2018, 16:10   #6
I’m a helpline volunteer, AMA
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Originally Posted by Redser87 View Post
Fair play to you for doing this kind of voluntary work OP, it is so important.
How do you leave the work at the door when you leave, do you have a routine?
Have you ever recognised a voice at the other end of the line, e.g. a neighbour or colleague? What would you do if that happened?
Leaving the work at the door is extremely important for our mental health. Volunteers support each other emotionally from difficult interactions with service users. I guess everyone is different, but I just give myself time to absorb the upset. I don’t try to ignore my feelings, and if I need a cry or some time out after an interaction, then I allow myself that. If I neglect to take care for myself I do expect to burn out quicker. What I think could be worse than burning out is stop caring about the service users and what they are feeling in that moment.
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15-10-2018, 16:11   #7
I’m a helpline volunteer, AMA
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What kind of training and/or qualifications do you need?
I can only speak about my training- which involved several hours per week over about 3 months. All training was provided by the organization itself and definitely prepared me well for the experience.

There are no qualifications needed, however each volunteer does undergo an interview process to identify suitability. What I have noticed is that many volunteers share certain values. While they come from many walks of life, they all care about the service users. They care about helping people and therefore care about their fellow volunteers as much as the service users.
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15-10-2018, 16:15   #8
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Do you get many prank phone calls? Do you have to continue even if you know it’s a prank?
Yes unfortunately we get a lot of prank calls. A significant portion would be sexually abusive which can really hurt the volunteers emotionally. In my experience, female volunteers get many more sexually abusive calls than male volunteers. In some organizations you do continue if you know it’s a prank while in other organizations you do not continue. To avoid anyone recognizing the organization I will decline to answer your second question.

*I should clarify prank calls are people who call us names or try to abuse the service we offer. 'Prank calls' does not include calls from people who think their problems are 'not that bad' or 'not important enough'. If you feel you need emotional support from lowliness/suicidal thoughts etc. please call!
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15-10-2018, 16:17   #9
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Hi there,

Thank you for doing this. I just want to say how much I admire people who are on these helplines. I had a mental breakdown when I was 18, alone in the middle of nowhere, with no way of getting to the hospital. I was ready to kill myself. I rang a helpline and spoke to a lovely lady for over an hour. She saved my life, just by talking to me, listening to me, acknowledging that my problems are real and legitimate. She talked me into getting help. She talked to me when nobody else would. I don't know if I would still be here if it weren't for her and the helpline. I don't even know her name.

On behalf of anyone who ever needed to dial that number, THANK YOU. You're so massively important in this day and age and I will never stop being grateful for having access to this service in the middle of the night 12 years ago when I decided that I don't want to exist anymore.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
That is such a lovely message for you to take the time to write. I’m sorry you have experienced such a difficult time. Your story is not uncommon- we talk with many people who are in a situation where just talking helps. Unfortunately it doesn’t help everyone every time- but it can change a lot when it does help.

I am so glad you could reach out in the middle of the night and talk with someone when you needed it most.

I can’t speak on behalf of the lady you talked with but I would not be surprised in the least if she remembers you too. I am sure she was so glad you called.

Several of our volunteers (like me) have used the service in the past. If you ever would like to know more about volunteering I would encourage you to reach out to the organizations in Mark’s original post.
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15-10-2018, 16:28   #10
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Thank you for doing this AMA and for the service you provide.

You mentioned people ringing up with problems that they feel aren't that bad. Do you get many of these types of calls? Is it just someone looking for an outlet to vent or how do you help them?

Have you noticed an increase in people availing of helpline services as mental health started getting talked about more?

How long have you been a volunteer? And did you have a realisation that you were bottling it up / dwelling on an interaction with someone or was it very clear from the off that you should let it out to take care of yourself and avoid burning out?
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15-10-2018, 16:57   #11
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You mentioned people ringing up with problems that they feel aren't that bad. Do you get many of these types of calls? Is it just someone looking for an outlet to vent or how do you help them?
I get a lot of calls where people say something like "I'm sure there are people out there with worse problems" or "I'm sure you have someone worse off to be talking to" or variants thereof. I obviously make it clear I am happy they called, and try to make clear that getting emotional support before an issue gets much bigger hopefully means the issue is dealt with earlier. Regardless how big an issue looks, people still suffer. If people are suffering, they are entitled to support with that. Hopefully the support they receive from us works for them.


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Have you noticed an increase in people availing of helpline services as mental health started getting talked about more?
I can't say I have noticed a specific change. I expect calls to mental health services in Ireland have increased, but that may be due to increased volunteers, increased outreach etc. I will say we have a long way to go before mental health is taken seriously. I often hear volunteer helplines are used by public health officials to provide support to their patients outside normal business hours. Mental health support needs to be available 24/7, just like physical health. Until that happens people's mental health issues won't be triaged correctly and people experiencing emergencies will continue to experience setbacks in their efforts to manage and sometimes recover their mental health.


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How long have you been a volunteer? And did you have a realisation that you were bottling it up / dwelling on an interaction with someone or was it very clear from the off that you should let it out to take care of yourself and avoid burning out?
I have been volunteering between 2-5 years. I never felt I bottle things up, however I have had situations where I felt overwhelmed with emotion over a call. this usually hit several hours after talking with that person. That situation would leave me in tears and require some quiet time. A situation like that would usually arise pretty quickly after starting to volunteer so you learn coping mechanisms pretty quickly. And if you don't- the volunteer organisation should help you to!
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15-10-2018, 21:23   #12
Nokia6230i
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Are the shifts day time and night time (not trying to identify who you volunteer with)?

Do you get similar calls across both shifts if so?
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15-10-2018, 21:40   #13
shellycub
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Hi, well done on doing what you do. It must be hard but I'm sure it makes a huge difference to so many people.

Do you have rules to follow regardimg what you can and can't ask? If someone rings you as a result of them being in an abusive environment can you ask them questions to try to help them or do you have to stay neutral? Do people ever get back in touch to say thanks?
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15-10-2018, 21:48   #14
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Hi OP, well done on giving up your time to do this important job. A couple of questions.

Why did you start doing this work? Is it related to something you studied, for example?

What is your procedure if someone is in serious trouble and says they're going to take their own life? What way does your training teach you to respond somebody in really serious danger?

Then, at what point can you call emergency services or other third parties to intervene in some way (presuming you know enough about the caller to do so) i.e. at what point does the person's right to privacy get left aside to protect their own safety and the safety of others?

thanks
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16-10-2018, 10:38   #15
I’m a helpline volunteer, AMA
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Are the shifts day time and night time (not trying to identify who you volunteer with)?

Do you get similar calls across both shifts if so?
Like some of the other helplines our service is 24/7 so there are shifts spread across all times. You definitely get different calls depending on the time. In the middle of the night you are going to get people who can't sleep. I mean- if you are anxious or upset who can you call at 4am in the morning? In the middle of the night you get people who can be coming down from certain substances, people who are contemplating suicide because they can't face the next day, people who are taking stock of their lives and wondering where to go from here. I find there is definitely less prank calling at that time, and people are more willing to be vulnerable.
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