KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — More people are calling the Befrienders on their 24-hour helpline since call charges were waived at the start of this month.
Its executive director Kenny Lim said while the helpline already experienced an increase in calls prior to the waiver, even more people are reaching out now and they are staying on the line for longer.
“Waiving the call charges has encouraged more people to pick up the phone and call us. For those who call us, it is not only for five to 10 minutes. If you have a problem or you are suicidal, the conversation can last for 30 minutes to an hour,” Lim told Malay Mail recently.
The downside though is that some may face difficulties reaching the number because of the high call traffic.
To address this surge, Lim said there will be more volunteers coming in next month to join the existing 120.
“We have had callers telling us they did not have enough credit and asked volunteers to call back. There were also some cases where the call would be cut off halfway through the conversation.
“It is now a bit overwhelming but we are looking into training more volunteers. We cannot say how many more will be coming in as it will depend on how many come for the training session,” said Lim, adding that there are also plans for an additional helpline number to cater to the increased number of calls.
Lim said they often get calls from those feeling hopeless and lonely, some with suicidal tendencies.
He said though the calls would not be able to resolve the problem immediately, often the callers sound more relieved by the end of the call.
“During the calls, we can see the difference... they call when they are in distress but after talking to the volunteers, we can see some relief in them.
“They sound a little bit better, though we can’t resolve the problem from a call but they can talk about their problems like having a burden on their chest lifted knowing that someone cares.
“Most of the callers, they feel that no one is able to understand them. Being able to call the helpline reduces their feelings of loneliness and isolation,” Lim said.
Befrienders volunteers provide counselling through the 24-hour helpline which is used by 80 per cent of the cases while email and face-to-face consultation by appointment take care of the rest.
“We would like to thank MCMC [Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission] and the eight telcos for the initiative. The way we see it, this is a good thing,” said Lim, citing the eight participants — Celcom Axiata Berhad, Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, Maxis Berhad, Telekom Malaysia Berhad, TIME dotcom Berhad, U Mobile Sdn Bhd, Webe Digital Sdn Bhd and YTL Communications Sdn Bhd.
“What is important is we just have to cope and plan what we have to do with the influx of calls.”
Founded in 1970, Befrienders is a non-profit organisation that provides emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the distressed and the suicidal.
Anonymous callers can share their problems with the trained volunteers at Befrienders where all conversations are confidential.