Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Our Staffordshire Mental Health Helpline helped people to manage suicidal thoughts on 721 occasions between April 2019 and March 2020. Read about a recent Friday night on the job.
Ready to start the shift at 7:00pm – I arrive at the office where I am greeted by colleagues. We discuss any concerns from the night before or areas of interest we could face.
I sign on to both my telephone and computer, whilst making sure I have all the correct databases open. If the phone does not ring when we first go-live – I take the chance to check my emails and keep up to date with news on the outside world. These are issues that can impact someone’s mental health.
When this is done, I start ringing our Support Call and Ring Out list. The Ring Out service is available throughout the weekends for people needing extra support when other services are closed – and accessed by a professional referral. The Support Calls can be any night of the week, each night if required for up to 2 weeks and anyone supporting someone with their mental health can refer into this service.
Taking calls is the most common way people get in touch with us. These can vary between people with suicidal thoughts to looking for information. It’s important to stay neutral and being a good listener is key to our role. We provide a safe and confidential space for people to tell us how they are feeling.
We also receive communication by text, instant messaging, and email. This is so we can support people in vulnerable situations who might not be in a position, or confident enough, to ring us.
One of our Support Call customers answers the phone. She is an elderly lady struggling with Alzheimer’s. Her mood is down today because she feels like people are tiptoeing around her. She takes the lead on the call and explains her feelings to me. My job is to listen and make the environment as comfortable as can be. I am thanked for my understanding – and she describes me as the only person who has been there for her today. We end it after 20 minutes
It takes us hours to get through all our Support Calls and Ring Outs. We are aware that our lines are busy, so we use an opportunity every so often to check voicemails. If the caller leaves their details – we ring back at the earliest opportunity.
Contacts continue throughout the night until we close our lines at 2:00am. After 2pm we use our time until 2:15pm to update our database and leave a good handover for the support workers on shift tomorrow. The following day is also a Saturday, where we are open for longer. Our workers start at 2:00pm over the weekend.
By the time we have left the building, we have spoken over a range of issues that are impacting people’s mental health. This role, although tough, can be satisfying. I know I am making a difference and it keeps me going.