I’m the director who oversees all our helpline work here at CALM. A helpline that is a lifeline to so many people, and one that is made up of a team of dedicated professionals who are there every single day to answer calls and webchats and give people hope at a time when they really need it.
We’re here for everyone who’s struggling with life, no matter who they are, where they’re from or what they’re going through. People talk to us about all sorts of topics: isolation, anxiety, relationship concerns, health worries, financial stress and suicidal thoughts. It’s important that everyone knows they aren’t alone.
We answer over 12,000 calls and webchats every month. Each call is different, from people having a ‘bad day’ who just want to talk things through to those feeling suicidal. From talking about their everyday life through to those who want to talk specifically about issues like anxiety or family problems. And that’s what makes the helpline so vital. It’s about being there for everyone. Whatever challenges people are facing, we listen, talk and plan together so they can begin to look to the future.
Of course, we do get calls from people who are at their lowest point and can’t see a way out. Last year we directly prevented 588 suicides. (We often get asked what we mean by this - it’s when someone whose life is at imminent risk contacts our services and our staff have supported them to remove themselves from harm.)
During the pandemic that number has risen. Six months since the government announced lockdown in the UK and the CALM helpline answered 71,261 calls and chats and directly prevented 253 suicides. That’s over 12,000 hours talking to people and 645,240 chat messages exchanged around topics such as isolation, anxiety, relationship concerns, health worries, financial stress and suicidal thoughts. The complexity and length of calls to the service has also increased. It’s been tough for a lot of people
I know there are a lot more figures that have been reported recently - that depression has doubled during lockdown, and that anxiety and loneliness have greatly increased too. But working on the helpline isn’t about statistics - it’s about each person’s unique experience. That’s how the team approaches each day - to understand the very real, very personal experiences of each person. The details of their lives, of why they feel the way they do. When you call you’re not a number to us, you’re a person who needs help. There’s no judgement. No pressure. It’s all about the person calling and what they need. And I’m immensely proud of the team who are here to talk to them, to reassure them and help bring some hope and some structure into their lives.
I know it can take a lot to pick up the phone or start that webchat. It can feel like the biggest thing in the world to start the conversation. But talking it out with a trained professional can really help. It could be the first step to a future where you don’t feel the weight of everything that you’re struggling with. That’s why I just want to finish by saying to anyone reading this: if you ever need to talk to us we’re here for you, every day, no matter what.
Please remember, if you ever need us, we’re here every day, 5pm-midnight, with free, confidential and practical support on 0800 58 58 58 or through our webchat.
And, if you can, please help us be there for everyone who needs us, no matter what. By donating £8 right now you could help fund a potentially life-saving call.