Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Helplines

Its been a hot minute Blogfam. I had a most busy week. Apart from schoolwork, I registered to volunteer for some helpline thingy and the training took up all my weekend. And drained me out mentally.
I learnt a lot about reflecting the tone and words of the other person in conversation and met some awe-inspiring speakers. One had this ‘thing with food’ (She said she would murder anyone who labels her bulimic) which she finally overcame after several attempts to bleed to death. Another came from a Suicide helpline. and they had insightful policies. Like If someone calls and says they want to commit suicide or have already committed it i.e. taken drugs. You may ask ‘Can I call an ambulance for you?’. If the person says ‘No’. you accept their right to 'off' themselves and continue with the conversation….till they die on you.
I still have a interview to go for and I am wondering if I should take that final step??
You see, my no-nonsense African approach to emotions is clashing seriously with the Western mollycoddling of emotions. I expected a dear Abby kinda thing where people call in cause they need someone to talk things through with, or they need advice. I am not by any means an expert but hey! 30 odd years of living puts me ahead of a 17 yr old (ok not necessarily!). I am just asking for flexibility and an opportunity to be human. But no, this program trains you to be a robot.
EXAMPLE
Me: Hello, Ginger’s helpline
Caller: hello. I am sort of feeling real stressed here. I have been starring at my books since 2 pm (note it is 10pm now) and I can’t seem to get anything in. the words keep swimming in my head. I have a paper to hand in tomorrow. I am fucked.
Me: you feel fucked?
Caller: yes I feel fucked up, inadequate. Stupid.
Me: Why do you feel that way?
Caller: Everybody seems to be getting on with their studies except me
Me: Have you always felt that way?
Caller: sometimes
Me: sometimes?
Caller: yeah I have not always felt that way. Sometimes I really feel on top of it but this time I don’t
Me: how do you feel when you’re on top of it?
Caller: I feel good. I feel confident
Me: confident?

Tell me, you don’t feel
1.       Like punching me right about now if you were the caller.
2.       Like this conversation is going to drag on and on.
Cos you see..It’s not really a helpline, it’s a listening service. So no advice, no directed questions, empathise by the sound of your voice not your words.
I can imagine an ALTERNATE SCENARIO
Caller - Hello. I am sort of feeling real stressed here. I have been starring at my books since 2 pm (note: it is 10pm now) and I can’t seem to get anything in. The words keep swimming in my head. I have a paper to hand in tomorrow. I am fucked.
Me - You must be feeling stressed. Is it a write up?
Caller – Yes, it is a 2500 word paper. I just have a title.
Me – You have a title. That’s good isn’t it? Finding a title is usually very difficult for me.
Caller – Maybe. It was a topic I really wanted to write about.
Me – So what is difficult now?
Caller – I can’t get a direction or aim. I am just going round in circles.
Me – that must be frustrating. Do you have helpful books you can use?
Caller – I think so. But can’t you get it? I don’t understand anything I am reading
Me – You say you’ve been at this since 2pm right?
Caller – yeah
Me - When last did you have a meal?
Caller – about 2pm maybe
Me -  can you do yourself a favor and go get something to eat. Please??
Caller - Yeah, I think I am actually hungry
Me – Throw in a 5 min stroll around your place if you can.
Caller – Maybe I will do that
Me - You’ve been working too hard I am sure (positive, encouraging)
Caller - I am not sure about that. I haven’t been reading at all
Me - Maybe. Maybe not but a little food, fresh air could do wonders to your memory
Caller - Yeah, maybe. let me go make a sandwich. thanks
Me – thank you for calling
Caller - Can I call back if I get stuck again?
Me - Yes you can. We are here for you all night

You see the difference btw two approaches. One is a neutral indifferent listener (pretend shrink). One is a friend. I know the one I’ll call if I had a problem.
Have you, dear Blogfam called a helpline before? How was their approach? Did you find it helpful?

7 comments:

  1. No Baby, Mama has never called a help line. But I'm with you. If somebody asks me, I will try and give them sound advice. I would feel useless just repeating their words back to them.

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  2. lool i've never called a help-line, thnks for tellin me hw they respond.. wont be calling one in the near future,lol :p
    I guess they feel like the whole "shrink" approach helps the caller to really vent and let off a lot of steam(clear his head)..but i definitely see why u're frustrated.. its cos u feel lyk u shld be doing more to help.
    Goodluck with ur volunteering though :) ..atleast u'r learnin sumn new

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  3. I like the way you think...and I'd rather talk to person #2 too. I guess for the helpline they must suggest approach #1 for liability reasons? If the person you suggested should go for a walk ends up getting outside and feeling hopeless, decides to throw him or herself in the path of an oncoming car, his or her family could say it's your fault for telling him to go out for fresh air.

    Silly but possible I bet!

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  4. I'm with you. I don't think I could just read off the script with people. It doesn't sound helpful at all. You'd be better off starting your own helpline -- or blog.

    Plus I'd want to smack some of them a'la Cher in "Moonstruck" and say "Snap out of it!"

    Probably not in the script either.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh ging...why would you put yourself thought this emotional wahala. I worked for a domestic violence center and the things people do to themselves or each other ....

    Well sha, I think they want you to be a robot because you are not a qualified shrink and giving out advice may pose legal problems. If you only listen then you have not really done anything.

    IMO, anyone who wants to die, deserves the right to die. I just don't know if I want to be around to witness or hear that.

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  6. I think it's admirable that you are volunteering! That's great. I definitely prefer the second conversation, though i suspect they may make you have the first one :( Liabilities and all.

    I wonder how lonely you have to be to actually call a helpline though :s

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  7. @Mom- I knew you'd understand. I just dont feel like I was being helpful. Then again, they 've been in existence for 20 yrs. maybe they know better.

    @Kitkat- Tell me about venting of frustrations. Its not funny listening to a caller who's language is peppered with swear words. and you cant say 'hey tone it down a bit pls'.

    @GNG - lol. I have thought of that scenario too. nothing is silly in this libel loving part of the world.

    @Jayne - laughssss. No, its not in the script. I really wish it was though...

    @Lucid - Call me a glutton for punishment. But I really wanted to become the next Laura Schlessinger...sort of

    @Adiya - 'very very lonely'. Most of the role plays we did based on real life calls where about students who felt no one loved them, didn't have friends, overwhelmingly shy and first year students far from home. lonely bunch I tell you.

    ReplyDelete

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