What is it like to call a helpline?
I’m wondering what it is like to call a helpline. My psychologist has recommended I consider calling one during times when I am struggling with some overwhelming feelings (not necessarily suicide/self-harm related, more like intense hopelessness, loneliness, etc.), but I find it difficult not knowing what to expect. There are so many things that I worry about when I consider calling - How will the conversation go? Will they think it's okay for me to use a helpline just to talk to someone when I am not a risk to myself? Will I be made to feel like I am wasting their time after a certain amount of time? Can I be forced to go to hospital or something if I am considered at risk of harm?
So if anyone has any experiences with helplines that they’d be willing to share to give me a little insight into how it goes, I would really appreciate it!
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Hi Willow Jude,
Thank you for your question and I'm really looking forward to hearing what our members have to share. I'm a little cliche in that I recommend a lot of helplines but get too afraid or forget to ring them 🙂
I have however rang Kids Helpline in the past, and also messaged them but also texted and had an online chat with Lifeline. The process of the chat is the same, so that's why I'm jumping in.
First off, I want to share that you won't bug them or bother them by ringing, because they are there to take your call and listen to what you have to say. You don't have to be at risk of harm. Sometimes, people just want someone to talk too.
They might start of the conversation by asking things such as "What do you want to talk about today?" "Have you contacted x before?" "How can I help?" So just giving you the chance to share what's going on for you, and no pressure to share if there's something you're not comfortable with.
If you are at risk of harm, then they do have a duty of care, but the way they'll respond is based on the 'level of risk'. So this can vary to 'Sometimes I don't care if I wake up or not in the morning' all the way to 'I am going to kill myself tomorrow at 10am'. There's a big spectrum! So it might be chatting about ways to cope or ways to stay safe.
It also depends on the hotline that you ring. Beyond Blue might be a resource if you want someone to chat too, where as Lifeline is a better resource if you're having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harm. There's also lots of other hotlines such as The Butterfly Foundation and Kids Helpline (up til the age of 25).
I hope this answers your questions and isn't too overwhelming!
Having been in contact, I guess i can only say what i have encountered.
For example, with Lifeline, it starts with a recorded message. I think it asks you to make a selection, or if you are in immediate need, then call 000. You’ll be placed in a queue, but i haven't experienced a long wait time.
the operator will answer, and ask how they can help…this is when i just let it all out. The operator listened, and offered encouragement, and empathy, as well as some dialog to help me get through my panic attack.
the operator will ask you some questions, similar to what your psychologist might ask.
i found the beyond blue webchat to be conducted in very much the same way, only a little less personal because there is no voice. It was a bit of a strain on the thumbs from typing on the phone.
Im both cases i never felt that i was taking up their time unnecessarily, i was in need of help and they provided that to help get me through the moment.
I hope that gives you some ease.
Thank you so much for your responses romantic_thi3f and Not_Batman, I really appreciate you both taking the time to respond. Your answers have been super helpful in addressing my concerns and making me feel more confident about the possibility of contacting a helpline in the future. Thanks! 🙂
Hi Willow Jude,
I contacted Lifeline once late last year and once early this year, which is the first time I’d contacted any kind of helpline. Like you I had hesitated to call previously. I wasn’t suicidal but was experiencing quite extreme despair and was totally overwhelmed by the events in my life.
What happened in both calls was I just offloaded everything I was feeling, something I normally never do with people. I normally don’t let people know if I am feeling things like despair, but because it is a line you can call in crisis I think that’s what gave me permission to just let it all out and express exactly what I was feeling.
Both people I spoke to did not speak a lot but just let me talk, but were empathetic. So I think it helped as a pressure relief valve for overwhelming feelings as much as anything. Both calls went for about half an hour. So if you are feeling overwhelmed it can just be a way of releasing some of that.
Only a couple of days ago I contacted the Beyond Blue helpline. I was not despairing, just trying to sort something, and it was a very down to earth, practical conversation with an understanding person and that gave me some strength and encouragement. I felt heartened and positive afterwards.
I hope that helps. Take care and all the best.
I've used lifeline a few times and the Cancer Council once. I usually start with "I'm not sure where to start". They tend to put your mind at ease by saying something like "That's how these conversations usually begin". They just listen, given some general guidance. The phone calls lasted about 5 minutes just until my mind stopped racing and the despair left me. Allowed me to think more calmly and then make a decision.
Hope this helps.
Hello Willow Jude, my experience is that I once rang a helpline in desperation, talked with a person who was very understanding, however, as the conversation continued they knew that I needed immediate help and rang the ambulance who arrived at my house, without me giving them any details, and then taken to a hospital for my own safety.
Another time I was talking with my ex on the phone who then rang 000 and again I was taken to a hospital.
Whether or not I was talking or just venting to them, they have the opportunity to ring those concerned, but I never wanted to go because I had my puppie to look after and that worried me more.
Take care of yourself.