|>>|| No. 6476
>I'd been told that a friend of a friend was suicidal and the circumstances involved, and wanted to know what I should do about it. The woman didn't really seem prepared to answer my questions - her answer was basically 'get them to phone us' - but who else am I supposed to call?
I don't know. I will say that with many callers it would become clear that "a friend" was being used as a pseudonym for the caller themselves. So if the woman you were talking to seemed to be avoiding the question, it may have been that she was trying to find out the nature of the question, because a lot of people (older blokes especially) have a hard time saying to a stranger that they have problems and that they're feeling like topping themselves. A lot of calls that started innocuously, on a surface level, about others, or about relatively trivial issues, went on to deeply personal and serious matters. This is a process that can take a long time. People want to know that they're actually being heard before they open up.
Also, Samaritans aren't trained to be therapists, or a citizens advice service. They're trained to listen to and discuss people's problems, not offer solutions. The nature of the service offered - that of being passive listeners, not problem solvers - is something that came up in a lot of calls. If you said that the Samaritans don't really make that clear, well, you'd be right. The argument goes that it's better that way; would you call a suicide line if you didn't think they had the answer? I can't say whether it's the right approach. Within the remit of the Samaritans as an organisation, though, "get them to call us" is the textbook correct answer once you've eliminated the possible needs of the person calling.
Alternatively, you might just have got a shit one on the phone. It happens. The Samaritans also offer an SMS and email service, and you could go back through conversation threads and see a lot of hopelessly tonedeaf advice that some Samaritans had dished out, when they had no business doing so in the first place. I had serious misgivings about both of these services, frankly. The phone lines were generally helpful, as far as I could tell from the branch I worked at, but phonecalls tend to have a definite beginning, middle, and end, and socially we're all more or less familiar with this construct. SMS exchanges do not necessarily follow such a pattern, and it was obvious that a lot of them (if you took the time to read back through the conversation history, and consider how many messages and responses were occurring per day) were perpetuating a daily cycle of misery rather than helping the individuals involved work through their issues. In particular, there were a lot of teenage girls who were texting upwards of 30 times a day, getting a response from a different Samaritan each time, some of whom clearly did not take the time to read through the previous exchanges and were consequently (albeit inadvertently) asking the same questions over and over. Practically, this meant that these girls were being asked if they felt suicidal once every day or so. I don't think that's healthy, or productive. The email service, having no national restrictions, seemed mainly to attract Americans with strong opinions about gun laws, the Illuminati and so on, and whilst in each case you have to consider that such talk may initially be venting, to "sound out" the service before discussing more personal issues, as far as I could tell email exchanges never really went anywhere. Perhaps email is too impersonal, or we consider it too permanent, but whatever the case people did not seem to want to discuss their feelings and problems over it. Both services were rumoured to be due for an overhaul when I was volunteering, back around 2010 (the most pressing being the matching of the same Samaritans to individual service users over time - more systemically complex an issue than it might seem, due to the voluntary nature of the organisation's workforce, and the potential importance of immediacy of response). I hope that occurred, because as it stood I felt they were sometimes doing more harm than good.
>I'm angry that so many people call a toll free number to try and have a hand shandy but somehow not surprised.
It was a surprise to me. Or at least, the volume of it. There was no system in place to flag offenders. They'd only just got around to blacklisting a few dozen numbers that accounted for something staggering like a quarter of all the calls received, and that was seen as an absolute last resort. And with good reason - the guy who's yelling about coming over your whore face one day might well need to talk to someone about their (very real and deep-seated) problems the next.
>Having volunteered for them, would you say charitable donations to them are a good use of any money someone puts aside for philanthropic use? I'm poor as shit but I feel I should give something back.
Despite the reservations above, I think the service as a whole is of great public benefit. If you can't afford a donation they're always looking for volunteers. That doesn't mean being on the phones, my lot were always short on people to go around collecting change in a bucket at public events and that sort of thing.
(Sorry for the derail, OP.)