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Every time I call a helpline, I regret it.

Skary_Bill
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Writing this as I'm curious to know if this is just a me thing.. I know my situation is not unique. I have depression, and it's always there.. But I don't suffer from it all the time, only when at a really low ebb. And even when that's happening, I have the experience to know it will pass.. Which gives me the confidence to keep my spirits up and shine a little light into the darkness.

Every now and then, it's just not enough, and no amount of positive thinking, food, vices or cute animal videos will fill the hole. And it's on these occasions that I find myself thinking I'm in over my head and I really need to talk to someone. Connect with another human.. Just literally have a chat with someone who's not teetering on the brink of the abyss.. Get a bit of perspective.. Perhaps some encouragement. But mostly, just to hear a friendly persons voice, and get out of my own head for a few minutes.. If I wasn't sobbing uncontrollably, I might just have a chat with the neighbor over the fence or something. But the crying thing does make that awkward. lol

And so it comes to be that once or twice a year I will overcome my anxiety to pick up the phone and call a stranger, hoping for nothing more than a brief, pleasant, light hearted chat with someone who understands what I'm feeling, or at the very least someone who will put up with the blubbering for a few mins.

But in all the years I've been on this journey, I'm yet to ever actually find that person for that chat in my time of need. And it's probably in some part my anxiety playing it's role.. But I need to know, is it just me that finds calling a helpline results in a formulaic conversation that feels more like an interview and is guaranteed to include the topic of self harm? Am I the only one thinking, if I answer some of these questions wrong, I'll end up with authorities banging on my door to check my welfare.. Wondering what list I just got my name on..

Clearly these lines aren't setup to offer the help I need. But I find calling them so stressful, I wonder how many ppl feel the same.

27 Replies 27

geoff
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Skary Bill, we have to appreciate that every time we ring a help line it may be in different circumstances, sometimes it's just to talk with a phone operator or counsellor about problems that have been worrying us over time or it could be in desperation just to stop us from doing something this illness forces us to do, but at certain times the person may not feel as though there isn't any difference between these two.

I's never easy to ring a helpline and talk with one person, then ring back ten minutes later and have to explain your problem once again to someone else and can be frustrating, but the second person may have more experience than the first person you spoke to.

They do offer help but all of this depends on how you are actually feeling and whether you are prepared to accept what they have said.

Years ago I did ring a helpline, the next thing that happened was I was being taken to a hospital for my own protection.

If you have a list of concerns then perhaps these need to be discussed with your counsellor or your doctor.

Best wishes.

Geoff.

blondguy
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Welcome Back Bill

Its been a while yet thats okay....I have always been a fan of your avatar

You made an excellent point about 'helplines' as there are some that can be overly 'structured/clinical' I still have anxiety nowadays in some shape or form.

You are always welcome Bill...you are not alone here

we are listening 🙂

Paul

Sophie_M
Moderator
Moderator
Dear Skary Bill,

Thank you for posting your concerns about your depression and the crisis support phone lines. These are excellent comments, and we look forward to reading the community responses.

Unfortunately, even though you know how you are feeling, where you actually are at emotionally, and what support you are seeking, we understand that the mental health specialist isn't aware of any of those things. With every call, the specialist must be prepared for the worst case scenario. Those annoying questions are to help the specialist make the determination, and an accurate assessment is the legal responsibility of the service.

We also understand that, if you inform the specialist at the beginning of the call that you just need to process feelings you are struggling with, and you are not at risk of harming yourself, this usually mitigates the requirement for all the questions; though this does depend on the specific service, and on the particular specialist.

If you would benefit from a slightly longer-term assistance, you might consider discussing a mental health plan with your GP so you can get 10 1-hour-long sessions with a mental health specialist.

Please remember that we are always here to support you.

Warm regards,

Sophie M.
 

Skary_Bill
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Geoff, thanks for the reply, great to see some familiar names here. 🙂
Yep, I certainly don't envy the people who answer these lines. I'm sure it could be a very rewarding job, but with a great many challenges. It does sound like I was right to consider my answers carefully, as I honestly couldn't imagine anything more nightmarish than people banging on the door, seeking to remove me from what little comfort and stability I have left. But no doubt, that's exactly the help some people will need..

The thing for me is.. At the point where asking for help is scarier than not asking.. Then a percentage of people who need help is just never going to ask for it. And how do you help them then?

Skary_Bill
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member
Hiya Blondguy, It really has been a while. I'm out here on the fringe of society, with limited internet access. Which makes it tricky to be a regular participant. But I sure am glad to have the option to post here. And to connect with people I don't need to explain myself to. 🙂 Thanks for being there to listen. It means alot.

Forrest
Community Member

Hi Skary Bill.

Thanks for sharing, it's validating for me to see as I can relate. Maybe for different reasons, but yes, a helpline seems to be the go-to response from professionals (and some others too) to make sure you're "covered" and considered by them as being given a viable option so they don't have to feel responsible about follow up, regardless of whether it is a viable option or not. I do understand why, and to be fair, they are not necessarily responsible for follow up any more than every other person you come into contact with, and I guess it's better that they keep distributing this option than nothing (and do need to cover themselves so they're not facing charges in the event of suicide.)

But that doesn't eliminate the sting of knowing you're lumped into a system that doesn't necessarily gel with your needs. I also have trouble finding any system, person or "help" that actually helps, at times when I really need it the most. Sometimes unexpected things help, but it is a fleeting surprise that doesn't necessarily function as a go-to if I try to return to it in what seems like similar times.

I do feel that whilst helplines and professional "there-for-you" services do need to follow protocols that make sure they have certain things covered, there are certainly times some could stand to "human up" their voices and word choices a bit so that you feel less like you're talking to a receptionist and that your emotional information is mere data that needs processing, and a bit more like a person who feels for you is there to catch you and be present with you.

It's an awkward, almost paradoxical thing, this idea of professional psychology. Brains and thoughts and emotions are deep and personal and sociably interpersonal, and a certain sense of shared vulnerability is part of what makes relatability effective, and as a profession psychology recognises that it's messy and complicated and creates a logistical jungle when it's institutionalised, and therefore tries to tidy it up by creating methods of relating to "patients" that cover all the bases of protection from said mess. Which can make the experience of utilising them a bit like arriving in suburbia to try to get a breath of fresh air in nature. It's like... ok... there's a tree or two, I suppose that's slightly nice... if you can smell them over the traffic pollution and hear the birds over the whirr of the overhead electricity wires...I wish I had something helpful. Best I can say is I relate.

Skary_Bill
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Sophie, NGL, I wasn't sure if this topic was going to make it past moderation. But I'm really glad it's been taken in the spirit intended.. That of discussion, not complaint.

FWIW, I definitely go out of my way to assure people up front that I'm not a harm risk.. Especially when I clearly sound upset. And I do respect why such questions should/need to be asked. But I wonder if the industry considers the amount of people who call up, who aren't on the edge of a tragic decision. Who now find themselves thrust into a conversation about it, when all they really needed was a light hearted chat to lift their spirits..

Here's the thing.. Even when I'm a total mess.. I'm not an idiot. So here's me, just trying to connect with someone, and here's them harvesting my details. Who am I, where am I, and then not just one.. But multiple questions regarding my current state. Even after I volunteered that info up front. And I can't put it down to differences in operators, because everytime I've ever called over the years, it's been the same thing.

So, minutes into the call, whatever feelings of distress or desperation that led me to make the call are gone, replaced by the fear that I've said too much.. Or said the wrong thing to the wrong person who could flip my world upside down with a single call. And I wrap the call up asap whilst trying to reassure the operator that everything's fine, lol. After the call I'm just numb.. Feeling more isolated than before the call, and now fearful of repercussions. On the plus side, I'm now way too rattled to be depressed anymore. So I guess there's that.

If I could say one thing to the people who man the phones on these helplines, it would be focus on the person, not the paperwork.

I definitely do need to find a psychologist.. The last time I attempted to was 2020, and at that time I couldn't find a single bulk billing psych in my region who would provide the 10 sessions. And back then, even at full price, they were all booked months in advance.. So I gave up and moved back to the bush. Now, since covid, phone consults have become much more widely available. So I guess I should try again. I'll put it on the list of things I need to stop avoiding. 😄 Thanks so much for your input.

Skary_Bill
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

G'day Forrest.

I found your post really helpful. Knowing that anyone out there can relate in any way is reassuring. And you hit the nail on the head a few times IMO. "so that you feel less like you're talking to a receptionist and that your emotional information is mere data that needs processing, and a bit more like a person who feels for you is there to catch you and be present with you." In particular, rings very true for me.

I actually said to the person I spoke with most recently, Can we keep this light please? And they doubled down on the, "well I just have to be sure." And I'm sitting there thinking... I'm not even sure if I'm sure.. I replied with,"Its a morbid subject, and not a conversation I was seeking to have. I understand you have to check some boxes, but.." And then they got really defensive about it and cut me off to deny any box checking.. lol.

I think around that time I'm thinking, I may not know what I need.. But I know this ain't it. And I politely made my exit.. Hoping like crazy that they don't push the red button.

As you say, it is awkward. And both too important and complex to be without some guidelines and good practice. But when it becomes more about the process than the person.. It's like a one size fits all item that doesn't fit anyone particularly well.

Thanks for your response, I feel you.

Have you ever tried looking into support groups? There are pros and cons when you're just looking for "a friendly voice/face" but sometimes it does fill the hole. Here are some of them (speaking specifically from experience of the one I attend):

Pros:

Like the forums here, they are peer based and can feel more personable than talking to a professional one on one. (Which is the main reason I'm mentioning it in this thread.) With the added bonus that you can actually hear people's voices and see their faces. The one I attend is also currently skype friendly. People who have lived experience of potentially similar issues to your own are there to nod and relate. You can feel lighter after sharing and, feel valuable and competent sometimes when someone else shares something that you might actually be able to help them with (as with the forums here.) The one I attend is facilitated by a psychologist so there is still that layer of protection. There is also a confidentiality agreement, (and the stipulation of non judgement etc,) so it's a "safe" space. Because it's peer based, there is often jokes and laughter and a sense of sociability, AND, if you want to try to actually, I don't know, be friends with group members outside the group setting, you're free to offer or propose as such. If you share that you're feeling really dark and junk, you probably will be asked if you're "safe" etc, BUT, it's a much more relatable and less invasive way of asking, and, because people are required-ish (strongly encouraged at the very least) to be attending some kind of therapy outside of the group (because it is a support group not a therapy group), the main avenue of red tape tends to be in my experience asking you to follow up for yourself with outside professionals as needed. (Much less fear of the door being kicked in and being dragged away by imaginary captors in white coats.)

Cons: Sometimes other people share things that might be a burden for you to listen to. If you attend in person, you can't just bail suddenly if you need to. (I mean you can, but you have the issue of getting yourself home.) The skype option helps with this. When you're really needing things to be all about you, I mean you can gauge the session and how much you time you can grab, and generally people like to give attention where it's needed, but since it's a group setting there is that need to be mindfulness of other's needs too.