As you may or may not know, I have a website attached to this blog, it has various pages about mental health things. Anyway, among it I have a page called What to Expect When You Call Lifeline which has been getting an absurd number of hits lately. I’ve just discovered that it’s apparently ranking quite high on Google search so thought I’d throw it out as a blog post for anyone who might be interested.
In Australia our ‘crisis hotline’ is called Lifeline. It is a well known organisation yet I had always been too scared to bring myself to ring when I was feeling suicidal. I had happily told other people to use the service but when it came to making that call myself, I could never quite bring myself to do it. So, today I found out some more info and made a call to Lifeline myself so I could let you guys know how it all works, keep reading to see what happened.
What does the call cost? Calling 131114 from your landline (house phone) is the cost of a local call, it is free to call from mobile phones in Australia from both pre or post-paid services.
Don’t have access to a phone? Head online instead! www.lifeline.org.au has some excellent resources to read through as well as web based crisis chat (This is the link to Lifeline’s crisis chat page) – please note that web chat is available only between 7pm and 7am, during the daytime you will need to call them on the 13 11 14 phone number.
What Constitutes a ‘Crisis’?
(Quoted from the Lifeline website) “A crisis is a very individual reaction to an event or experience. One person may be extremely affected by an event, while someone else experiencing the same event may experience little or no negative effects.If a crisis is not dealt with in a healthy way, it can lead to longer lasting mental health issues, as well as social and physical problems.” So basically, you do not have to be feeling suicidal to be in a crisis. If an incident happens in the family and you are really upset by it, even if Uncle Fred and Aunt Wilma aren’t bothered by it at all, your feelings do COUNT and ARE valid, everyone is affected by situations differently and talking about them may be very beneficial in helping you process the incident and move forward in a healthy manner. Have a browse of the Lifeline Website for suggestions about what sort of help might help you and/or maybe give them a call on 13 11 14 to talk it through further.
My Own Experience Calling Lifeline:
So today I finally phoned lifeline. I wasn’t immediately suicidal, although the feelings have been far more intense recently, I was struggling greatly with feeling like I had an adequate reason to call, but then I thought about you guys out there struggling with the same sort of feelings and realised that if I can make this call now then I can alleviate some of the mystery for myself and I can also share the process and the results with you and take some of that fear away so that you might feel better about making that call. I will admit that it took me about 3 tries to let the call connect me through to a ‘crisis supporter’ because I kept chickening out! My fears before making the call:
- Embarrassment for feeling the way I did.
- Fear of being judged as being weak and pathetic with no real problems in my life or right to feel the way I did.
- Fear of getting in to trouble for wasting their time.
- Not being ‘suicidal enough’
- But mostly what stopped me from calling at my most suicidal was paranoia, specifically a fear of suddenly having a team of police cars swarm my property and throw me handcuffed into the back of squad car or an ambulance. I was scared that I would be humiliated in front of my neighbours and because I live in a small town where everybody is all up in everyone else’s business, I catastrophized that making that one small phone call would end in me having to move interstate to save my family the embarrassment of being seen to live with a ‘crazy person’.
Okay, so here’s what happened…*Dial 13 11 14* Recorded message answers immediately saying that if life is in immediate danger please hang up and call ‘000’ followed by a menu with the following options:
- To speak with a crisis supporter now – press 1 or simply stay on the line
- To provide feedback about lifeline services – press 3
- For information about volunteering – press 5
(For some unknown reason, there is no press 2….)*Press 1* A recorded message played that states that the call is confidential but may be recorded and listened to for quality call training purposes. I was then placed in a queue for about 2 minutes. (I don’t recall the music but it was better than the Centrelink & Telstra ones!) A young lady answered the call, she didn’t ask me for my name or any personal information, simply a friendly sounding ‘how can I help today?’ Firstly I asked if they were super busy at the moment because I didn’t want to disturb them as my question wasn’t life threatening. She said not to worry about that because every caller is valid and what would I like to talk about? I probably made the poor girl think I was a complete whack job (yes, I will phrase it that way) pretty quickly because I was really nervous and kept fumbling my words, she didn’t ask my name which was lucky because chances are I wouldn’t have remembered it anyway. (At this point I was thinking that maybe I should have just written a letter!) I said that I was not feeling suicidal at the moment but I was ringing now because I generally chicken out of ringing when I am feeling suicidal due to paranoia and I wanted to know what their procedure was and what the rules are with them contacting the police etc so that I might be brave enough to ring in the future and also to let some other people in my situation know what to expect too. (I neglected to mention that I was doing a blog post about the subject, I probably should have so she had more context to my haphazard line of questioning, instead I think I just came over as paranoid…) She was a bit reluctant to answer my question directly, I suspect she was trying to gauge if I was actually suicidal or not and had been just trying to tiptoe around the fact. She said in a very calm voice that their main priority is the safety of the caller, I did eventually get out of her that if the caller is feeling suicidal they will always work with them to try and resolve those feelings before contacting the police or similar but if a life is in immediate danger, then they might have to for safety reasons. She asked me what reason I would normally have for feeling suicidal if I was and I explained that there was often no specific reason, I said I am bipolar and if I am depressed the mood can overtake me entirely and a final trigger could be as severe as a death in the family or as simple as dropping a fork really, it just kinda is what it is. She asked me what sort of plans I had made in the past and I accidentally laughed which I think un-nerved her slightly, it wasn’t because I thought it was funny, only because as my regular readers know I have had suicidal ideation for such a large part of my life that I have a preconceived “plan” for pretty much any occasion and that is hard to explain to someone new without them freaking out on me. (I once told my GP who asked that, that I had made three new plans since I had entered her office and my psychiatrist has said that if they locked me up every time I made a suicide plan they’d never let me out again so frankly in my case the question is a bit redundant.) So I just said, it depends on the situation at the time, for me it’s usually impulsive action on a pre thought out plan, sometimes an intricate and detailed plan. I explained that I had once attempted suicide using prescription medication I had smuggled into a psych ward which I had taken and that attempt very nearly worked. She said that must have been very hard for me afterwards and I said nah, not really – I was pretty numb for a long time, I tend to dissociate a fair bit, good for me I guess, much harder on my family, I have a lot of guilt about that. (I guess I should eventually start work on processing all the unresolved feelings I have about that incident because it suddenly made me start crying out of nowhere.) She then asked me again if I was feeling suicidal and I said, “no, no I am not at the moment” (half truth). *Awkward pause* The call was starting to take a direction I was uncomfortable with and I was trying not to cry, she then asked if I had a mental health support team around me and I said that I did once, I still have a psychiatrist but I don’t like to bother her too much and then I (did the
fear driven mature thing I do when I don’t want to deal with something anymore and ran away from it) said “thank you very much for all of your information, I will stop tying up your line now and let you go, have a nice day” and I hung up…
I probably could have handled my own call better, you know made up a list of questions to ask or perhaps sent it in e-mail format, unfortunately as you know, I am rather impulsive at times. Upon perusing the Lifeline website later, I realised that they will talk about all sorts of things not just suicide. Click HERE for the link to their facts and information page which has details about other topics such as domestic violence and loneliness and isolation. If I had read more about the different services they offer BEFORE placing the call, then maybe I could of asked for some tips (pardon the pun) on dealing with my little gambling issue for my first call as it is a less triggering topic that unlikely to burst into tears over but certainly need some practical help in learning how to handle… Will I use Lifeline next time I am feeling suicidal? Hmm… I feel like I should be saying a resounding YES! Because I want to encourage all of you guys to make that call if you need to, with 8 attempts each day in Australia, suicide already claims WAY too many lives, however if I am to be completely honest then I think if it comes to the crunch my fear and paranoia of being embarrassed, stopped or apprehended will probably stop me from picking up that phone. Remember my #1 golden rule: Do As I Say, Not As I do!
Do you have any experiences good or bad calling Lifeline in Australia or ‘The Suicide Hotline’ in your country? If you would like to share them with us, please e-mail me at email@example.com with a link to the blogpost or the story itself and I will add it in below!