Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Best of 2009: Day 6

via rofanator

Day 6: Best workshop?

I'm not sure if this counts as a workshop or not but here we go. As some of you may know I'm currently training as a listening volunteer with a well known crisis charity. For the past seven weeks, every Wednesday night, I've been learning how to cope with calls from people in despair or distress (plus prank calls and sex calls, but we'll save those for another day). The lonely, the suicidal, the hurt and the frightened. It's been hard. Really hard at times. It's made me challenge my perceptions, my beliefs and the way I handle situations. But it's also been the most incredible thing that I've ever done. There's only one week of training left and then I'll be taking calls. It's starting to get very real now. And quite frightening.

I'm still not sure how I'll cope when I get a call from someone who's already taken steps to end their life. A call from someone who just wants to tell another person their secrets before they leave this mortal coil. It's a huge privilege in a way, to listen to things that they've never told anyone else before. A huge privilege but also a burden.

Because that's the thing about being a listener. You can't take the stories home with you. You can't tell your friends, your family or anyone else about what you've heard. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared about how I'll cope. But I will.

There are so many lonely people in this world and if I can be there for even a few of them, to let them know that they're not alone, then isn't that fantastic?


Anonymous said...

Please be careful how you react to things. I used one of those lines a year ago, after my husband died, and the person on the other end decided that I was suicidal (not true) and called the police on me. I had two burly policeman on my door demanding entrance, and they wouldn't believe me when I said that I was just upset and venting.

The whole scenario ended up with them hauling me off in handcuffs because I refused to go with them to hospital (where drug and alcohol screens were negative and mental health assessment was positive). I have distrusted those sort of 'listeners' ever since.

It was the most awful experience of my life and I never even got an apology for it.

Helen said...

Sorry to hear about your bad experience but the line I'm volunteering for has very different values to that. We don't trace calls (so couldn't call police/ambulance even if we wanted to) and the charity has a policy of self-determination. Even if someone is suicidal, they have the right to die.

We also don't give advice, we merely listen. We are 'listeners' in the truest sense of the word.