When we talk about mental health problems and people being under pressure these kind of services tend to enter into the conversation. I’m sure if more people knew what they were like they might feel more able to utilise them.
Firstly there are many different kinds of listening service. There’s face-to-face listening services such as counselling; there are helplines like Childline, Samaritans and Breathing Space; and there are online services. The only online service I have experience of is called Seven Cups Of Tea and I’ve linked to that website in previous posts. I will do so again at the end.
This post is going to focus on helplines and their online equivalent and I will do a separate post on counselling.
When you first call a helpline it will depend on how busy they are as to what happens next. The call may be directly answered by the person who is going to help you, you may be put in a queue or the call may be answered by a switchboard operative who will direct your call to the most appropriate person. It is likely that you will be asked what you want to be called and it’s totally ok not to use your real name. All calls are confidential but sometimes people feel more comfortable using an alias.
It’s normal to be nervous. The reason for your call may be something that you’ve never spoken to anyone about before, and regardless, making this call and reaching out is a big step. The person on the other end of phone will try to put you at ease. Often they will directly ask what has prompted you to phone them but they may make small talk until you’re ready to talk about the issue.
The people who work/volunteer for these services have heard it all before. You’re not going to shock them and they’re not going to judge you. Don’t expect them to solve all your problems in one phone call. They will do their best to help you work through and unpack what’s going on and why you’re feeling the way you are. Sometimes they may even signpost you to other organisations that can help more long term, but they can’t tell you what to do or wave a magic wand and fix everything.
Don’t worry about ending the call. If for any reason you want to stop talking to the person you don’t have to give a reason or explain yourself. For the call handlers, if they’ve helped you and you feel able, a thank you is always nice, but certainly not obligatory and they understand that for a lot of people the phone call itself may be quite traumatic.
For that very reason some people prefer to use an online service. The only one I have any experience with is 7 Cups of Tea. I was going through a terrible time and a friend recommended it to me. Especially for those times, late at night, when you feel like no one else in the world is awake but you want to talk to someone. You simply select the option to “connect to a listener” and a list of options will appear and if you wish you can select the broad topic that you want to talk about. Don’t worry if you want to talk about multiple topics, this list is only to direct you to a listener who has a specialty in a certain area. That’s not to say that you cannot talk to the same listener about a different issue. All the listeners on this website are ordinary people like you or I but the website does require you to complete some training modules. Anyone can sign up to do it so if you would like to make a difference this could be a very easy way to do it.
I hope this post has given an insight into what to expect from these services and relieved some of the anxiety you may had have about utilising them. If you have any experiences of these services that you’d like to share or anything you’d like to add leave a comment below.