Unconditional support through listening

Upon my arrival to HK, I became interested in volunteering with Samaritans – an NGO specialising in suicide prevention, through providing a 24/7 hotline service and outreach programs.  However before I could be admitted as a volunteer, I had to undergo a compulsory month-long training.  Unfortunately work took me out of HK and I was unable to commit to the training, until now. 

Yesterday, I attended their introductory session, where they explained what the Samaritans are about and the commitment expected from volunteers.    The Samaritans have several key guiding principles – (i) They are Good Listeners, (ii) Callers are promised 100% confidentiality,  (iii) Callers can expect a trained Listener at any time.  I had wrongly perceived that the Samaritans offered counseling services and was humbled to learn that what they offer is a Listening Ear – emotional support and empathy through listening, without offering advice or passing judgement.  Though it may sound easy but how many of us can truly listen patiently without offering counsel.  I believe that it is inherent in us to want to offer a solution to another’s problem, because we believe that that is what is needed.  But through yesterday’s session, we learnt that what callers are looking for by calling the Samaritans , is a sympathetic and empathatic ear, an outlet or even a means for clarifying their thoughts. 

We learnt 2 alarming statistics from the session – (i) on average, 1,000 people in HK die by suicide every year.  This is more than the no. of people that die by road accidents.  (ii) For every person that commits suicide, 50 people are affected by it.  This means that every year, 50,000 people are affected by suicide.   If you multiply it over 20 years = 1 million people in HK would have been affected by suicide. 

Callers who call the Samaritan hotline are more often than not at the breaking point when they call.  It requires courage to pick up the phone and speak to a stranger and yet sometimes that is all that is needed to start the healing process. If nothing else, perhaps the Samaritans had a chance to help the caller re-think their decision to take their life. 

How many of us have someone to confide in?  Someone that lets us be ourselves and for us to say things that may not be pleasant.  If you do not have that someone, you can contact the Samaritans or Befrienders and be assured of that very important support.

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Filed under Hong Kong, Musings

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