Distressed callers often just want to talk, be heard

Distressed callers often just want to talk, be heard

But schizophrenics are tough to handle as they forget what counsellors tell them

Experts and volunteers working with NGOs in the field of mental health say that although there has been a rise in the number of ‘mentally distressed’ callers on their suicide and crisis intervention helplines, a majority of them just want to talk and be heard.

A volunteer from NGO Sumaitri says there has been at least 20-25 per cent increase in the number of callers in the last five years on their helpline. On an average day, over 40 calls are received and the age bracket is usually between 20 and 40 years.

“A majority of calls are from people who are getting disturbing thoughts and want to talk it out. Although there have been a few cases of callers who are suicidal, most callers are depressed and are unable to share their thoughts,” says the volunteer.

“But all the callers get suicidal thoughts, so suicide is somewhere in the back of their mind. As a matter of protocol we ask each caller if they get suicidal thoughts, and they all say yes.” The volunteer says the number of new callers are less compared to old ones who call them frequently.

Deepti, a volunteer with Emmanuel Hospital Association, which runs a 24-hour helpline, says although there is no fixed pattern there are days when a high number of calls are recorded in the evening.

High number of calls

“We get a high number of calls usually after 6 pm, but there are days when we don’t. Similarly, we get lots of calls from distressed people during weekends. Again, there is no fixed pattern to it,” says Deepti. The highest number of calls are over relationship issues or mid-life crisis, from people between 20 and 30 years, she adds.

“Most calls are from people distressed over personal issues. It can be relationships. Some of them tell me that they don’t know why are they sad, but usually it is linked to a personal problem,” says Deepti. “There are people suffering from chronic diseases who call us. They mostly want to talk to somebody, be heard and understood.”

Apart from relationship issues, family issues and education problem are the most talked-about problems by callers at both the helplines.

Volunteers from both NGOs say that calls related to work pressure are fewer compared to those on personal issues. There is also no pattern on the basis of gender, say volunteers. Equal number of calls come from men and women. Calls from people diagnosed with schizophrenia are few, but they are the most challenging to deal with over the phone.

“When we talk to a caller, we start with warm-up questions, start befriending them, assuring them that we are listening and they can talk about anything, thus trying to put them at ease. The problem with schizophrenics is that they don’t register whatever we are trying to tell them. There have been cases where we have to refer them to our psychiatrists,” says the volunteer.

“Sometimes, a patient is extremely aggressive and impulsive. They don’t want to listen to anyone. Another challenge with schizophrenics is that their memory is short; whatever we tell them doesn’t stay in their memory for a long time,” says Deepti.

The volunteers are usually students or research scholars in Psychology and its branches.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox