Tonight I have spent a very productive few hours in the company of the mental health charity I am currently training with, and hopefully to volunteer for.
It was an opportunity to shadow a current volunteer on the charity’s helpline. There are several charities in the U.K. that run helplines for people with mental illnesses, and it was certainly an eye opening experience, to say the very least.
The volunteer took six calls, and the variation in the nature of the calls indicates what a distressing existence it can be to have a mental illness, or even to contemplate something life ending. For obvious reasons, I will not elaborate on the callers or the nature of their calls.
Helplines are a lifeline, quite literally. It’s like throwing somebody an aid to save them from drowning. I am used to dealing with real issues at the weekly Peer Support group, but tonight was here and now, mental distress in the raw.
I honestly don’t know how the volunteers on the helpline keep their distance, their boundaries or their patience. The guy I was shadowing was magnificent. Professional, polite and patient. He was a real credit to the organisation and we got on well. He also valued my comments about the individual calls too, which was nice.
I must say, the helpline volunteering is not for me. If I didn’t have my own issues, then dealing with distress wouldn’t be a problem, but with all that has happened the last seven years, dealing with extreme stuff probably is a bit beyond my capabilities. The Peer Support group is different, because anyone in crisis in the group is referred straightaway to clinical services, and wouldn’t be allowed in the group. There is an informal vetting procedure, something that doesn’t happen with helplines.
I am up for moderating an online forum and doing some admin work with the new charity. Just going to keep my head down and make my contribution, in my own way.
An enlightening evening, and I have great admiration for anyone working on helplines. Mental illness is something to be taken very seriously, and these helplines perform a crucial outlet for those in need. Long may they continue.
Allen Brooks xx