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Demand for LGBT Helpline so high it needs more volunteers

Mental health concerns are the number one reason why people contact its service.

THE NUMBER OF people calling the national LGBT Helpline has grown so high that a call for new volunteers has been put out.

The national helpline is to launch a volunteer recruitment drive for its services today, and has outlined how mental health concerns are the number one reason why people contact its service.

Paula Fagan, Coordinator of the LGBT Helpline, told TheJournal.ie that in the past year they have noticed increasing numbers of people contacting them in relation to mental health issues.

There is huge demand for our service but, unfortunately, at present we do not have enough volunteers to meet that demand.

The LGBT Helpline provides support and information to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and to those who may be questioning if they are LGBT.

Support

Since being launched two years ago, the helpline has supported thousands of people. Fagan said that the helpline was set up after separate helplines from around the country joined forces to link their services to one national number.

It is open seven days a week from 6 – 9pm Monday – Wednesday; 4 – 9pm Thursday to Friday; and 4 – 6pm Saturday and Sunday.

There are about 100 volunteers working with the helpline now, but the plan is to double this. There are six different centres where the helpline is based, two in Cork, two in Dublin, one in Dundalk and one in Mayo.

“We keep stats on when phonecalls come into us, so we can see we are getting a lot of calls otuside our current opening ours, in the early afternoon,” said Fagan.

We are getting calls we are not open to taking. We want to boost our volunteer numbers and open in afternoons, and maybe eventually be open 12 or 24 hours.

Regarding not being able to answer all the calls, Fagan said: “It’s difficult obviously; we want to be able to respond to people when they ring us.” The phone message informs people of the opening hours, but also gives them the Samaritans number in case they need further help.

People contact the helpline to talk about issues including coming out to family or friends; the impact of homophobia and transphobia; negative attention; social stigma; harassment and more.

“A lot of people who would have suffered from anxiety, depression or isolation before they come to us,” said Fagan.

We also get calls from family members and friends of people who are LGBT about how they can support the person, and to talk about their own concerns around it. They might be afraid a child might be bullied for example.

Those who apply to become volunteers are sent out an application form, and the process includes an interview, six weeks of training for successful applicants, and mentoring. The whole process takes around three months before volunteers deal with calls on their own.

The LGBT helpline number is 1890 929 539. People interested in volunteering can contact info@lgbt.ie.

Read: Samaritans’ SMS service reveals high levels of self-harm>

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