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Could you be a Lifeline volunteer? Here are the screening questions you may be asked

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Compassion, empathy and a listening ear – if these qualities describe you, read on.

You may be the person Lifeline is looking for.

The Suicide Prevention Crisis Support Service has braced for an increase in calls this Christmas season, as people navigate emotions, fractured relationships and isolation during the holidays.

But more supporters of the crisis are needed – one in five calls to Lifeline nationwide recently went unanswered due to a shortage of people working on the phone.

In her role as Program Manager, Lifeline Canberra’s Alisha Tarrant is the first voice potential volunteers hear when they express an interest in joining the service.

These are the questions she asked future crisis call operators to determine if they are suitable for the job.

Can you give up trying to “fix, save or save” someone?

There are a series of questions that are asked of volunteers before they can start working at Lifeline. (Noah Schultz-Byard – ABC Local)

Ms. Tarrant has conducted hundreds of interviews with selfless community members who have decided to give back to the community and have a purpose in helping a stranger in their darkest times.

She said many people signed up to become Lifeline volunteers because they had been through a mental health crisis – people who have overcome personal crises make great volunteers because they have built a “motivation to help.” reduce the number of suicides and loneliness ”.

But Ms Tarrant said in some cases it can be both a blessing and a red flag.

“Part of my role is to listen to all possible triggers and to have an open, honest and non-judgmental conversation. [with the applicant],” she said.

“We listen to open, self-aware people.”

Lifeline advisers at work on good generic WA phones.
Ms Tarrant says many people volunteer because of their personal experience with mental health, but it can be a problem.(ABC News: Pamela Medlen)

Ms. Tarrant said volunteers should be aware that everyone’s experiences are different and that it is not the responsibility of every supporter to “fix, save or save” callers.

As such, she keeps a close watch on respondents for any signs that they may be projecting their own experiences onto those in need, or indications that they might be particularly distressed by the calls.

“And if I am alerted in any way that this work may cause harm to someone… then I suggest waiting maybe six or 12 months… until the person is in a place. where she no longer tries to fix people, ”she said.

Ms Tarrant said most people who have applied to Lifeline don’t have Savior complexes and understand that the role is to listen, highlight strengths and empower people to ask for help. in their time of crisis – while learning their own communication skills and a sense of purpose.

How do you feel about not knowing the end?

Lifebuoy phone
All calls to Lifeline are anonymous which can be a challenge for some volunteers.(ABC)

Anyone who phones 13 11 14 can do so anonymously – this is an important part of Lifeline’s service, but it also means that volunteers have no way of knowing what is happening to whoever they are. speak.

Confidential conversations have no possibility of follow-up, and there is no established familiarity between caregivers and help-seekers.

Lifeline volunteers can request emergency services for certain callers, adhering to “strict procedures” if a life is in danger.

But Ms Tarrant said this open nature of interactions can be difficult for some supporters to accept.

“We are not pursuing therapeutic work in any way,” Ms. Tarrant said.

“We also don’t build relationships or seek common ground or similarities, although the goal is to make sure people feel connected.

However, Ms. Tarrant pointed out that debriefing sessions are readily offered to volunteers who may need help letting go or taking stock of a particular conversation.

Can you make the time commitment?

It costs Lifeline $ 10,000 to train each new volunteer, with the course spanning six months.

Once trained, volunteers must devote at least 92 hours per year, for at least two years.

As such, potential supporters in a crisis are asked whether they have the capacity to devote sufficient time to the service.

“We are asking everyone to follow a process to ensure that the service we provide to the entire national community on the crisis line is consistent service,” Ms. Tarrant said.

“Therefore [we give] the training to get through it, but also the resources to make sure people are supported and feel as confident as possible to take what is sometimes difficult and confronting conversations on the crisis line. “

Ms Tarrant said that in the past few weeks she had conducted more than 50 interviews and that it had gone “incredibly well” and that she was looking forward to welcoming new hires in 2022.

“It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.”


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