I've started, you might have noticed, adding sub titles to the title of the blog. This will continue to change as and when funny remarks occur to me. I also invite you all to add to comments any of the smart-arsed things you'd like to say to me every day, but until now have been too cowardly to say to my face. It's an open house. Everyone is welcome in.
For almost the last six months, I’ve been earning my angel wings* by doing some volunteering work in the incredibly limited spare time I have in between going to the gym, doing my OU studies, obsessively cleaning the house (my new joy – cleaning the doors and walls) and polishing my halo.
The charity I’ve been volunteering with deals specifically with people in the middle of suicidal crisis; that is, those people who have either already made one or more unsuccessful attempts at taking their own life, or who have active plans in place for doing so in the immediate or near future. Most of the people I have met so far have fallen into the former category, with some of them having made serious attempts five or more times in the past, and many of them having tried as recently as that same week. I’ve had some really strange conversations with people about methodology, including one very involved 30-minute conversation about the technical difficulties of hanging yourself. It’s very strange to have that kind of knowledge floating around in your head.
I've wanted to blog about this for the last six months, simply because there is so much stuff I'd like to talk about, so many things that have come up during my time there that I've wanted to discuss, so many people I wanted to mention. The thing is, obviously, the issue of confidentiality - both for the users of the centre, and the volunteers that work there - is incredibly important. Some of the users haven't told a single living soul half of the things that come out during their time at the centre, and a huge reason for that is because, at the end of it all, they won't ever have to see any of us again - there is an understanding (like on a stag night) that what happens in the centre stays in the centre. Therefore, my blogging hands are pretty much tied. I really can't talk about anything but my own experience of the place, and even this might be pushing the point**.
In the brief time I've been doing it, I've found that talking to suicidal people can be, in turns, wonderfully life affirming and paralysingly depressing. For the most part though, honestly, it's been a fantastic experience. I've come home from each shift I've done feeling uplifted, whether or not I feel like I've helped or not, whether or not the shift has gone well or gone horribly. It's both very easy and very difficult to say the wrong thing to somebody that's suicidal. All I've decided, so far, is that if at the end of my shift everyone in the building is still alive, I've done okay.
* Before I start blowing my own trumpet too loudly, please let it be known that this is for entirely selfish reasons – I got advice from a careers advisor that it always looks good when applying for post-grad psychology courses to have a stint of some kind of volunteer work within a mental health charity of some kind on your CV, as it shows enthusiasm for the job. It’s also good to work out if, in fact, you really actually do (as I do) want to work with people who have mental health problems, and if you’re actually suitable for that kind of work.
** However, if anyone would like to hear any more about the service the centre provides, please feel free to email me and I can send out more information.