Volunteering for a Suicide Hotline: staying resilient and alleviating emotional baggage

Written by Emily Fang Published on 

We speak to a suicide hotline volunteer on what it’s like being on the other side of the phone as the listening ear.

The KrASIA team conducted an in-depth interview with a hotline volunteer from Samaritans Of Singapore (SOS). To protect the privacy of our interviewee, he or she will be quoted anonymously.

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) is dedicated to providing confidential emotional support to individuals facing a crisis, thinking about or affected by suicide. If you are concerned about someone you know or are seeking resources, please reach out to SOS.

KrASIA (Kr): We all know that volunteering on a suicide hotline is not easy. What are some of the larger motivators for people to volunteer for a suicide hotline like SOS?

Anonymous (A): I believe that having a strong community and supporting one another is at the core of being human. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that I can make a small difference to someone else, just by giving them a listening ear. This is especially the case for someone who is facing high levels of distress and desperation, yet have no one to turn to.

Kr: How does SOS train volunteers to be mentally resilient and prepared? Is there a framework to help volunteers reset after a shift?

Anonymous (A): SOS has a very rigorous training program that spans multiple stages including classroom/online as well on-the-job training with a supervisor supporting every step of the way. The process ensures that those who get selected and decide to volunteer, are indeed well prepared to give the best listening ears to the callers. However, every situation is different and therefore, there may be times when support is needed after a call and for that, the volunteers can speak to the staff or any other volunteers present to alleviate the emotional baggage that may be attached to the call. Ultimately SOS always emphasize the need for self-care and to leave the weight of their responsibilities behind.

Kr: How does SOS ensure and measure the quality of service?

Anonymous (A): SOS do offer regular refresher trainings for volunteers to maintain and even improve the quality of service. Furthermore, SOS also has an active communication network with and between volunteers, to facilitate easy and prompt sharing of knowledge and expertise.

Kr: For the untrained and general public, how can we stay vigilant to help others whom are going through a hard time and have suicidal thoughts?

Anonymous (A): Encountering suicidal thoughts and urges can be an extremely distressing and depressing situation for anyone to experience. If you identify any warning signs that your loved ones might be going through that – it is of foremost importance to take these signals seriously and to express to your loved ones that you are there for them.

This can be a very difficult step to take, as suicide is a heavy subject matter and you may even not know what to say. However, everyone experiences pain very differently, and while it is hard to ever understand them fully – it’s more important to be there and be willing to help. If possible, you can encourage them to speak to someone at the SOS hotline, chat or email. Also, note in case of anybody in immediate danger to directly call 995 for assistance.


Emily Fang


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