Stories from the phone line: Mind Infoline
Supervisor Nikita Owens and Team Leader Natalie Thompson explain what it’s like to staff the Mind infoline on mental health issues.
First thing Monday, Nat and Nikita go through the weekend’s texts and emails to determine who needs a call back.
Then the phone lines open. It could be anybody calling: somebody at risk, being abusive, trying to understand their child’s mental health issue, or needing signposting to another organisation.
“We’ve had GPs and social workers ask how they can best support their own clients,” says Nikita.
Advisers get four weeks’ training, which includes listening to at-risk calls and learning about Children and Young People issues. They’re also given annual refresher training.
Engaging with mental health
Events in the news can cause a spike in calls.
“The Royal Family’s ‘Heads Together’ really helped promote mental health awareness, as do the celebrity ambassadors for Mind, such as Alastair Campbell and Fearne Cotton,” says Nikita.
Mind even works closely with Hollyoaks on storylines involving mental health issues.
Rewards and challenges
Both women agree: the best thing about their jobs is empowering people.
“It’s close to my heart, as I didn’t get the help I needed with my daughter, who has mental health issues,” says Nat.
And the most challenging? When they signpost a caller to another organisation which then turns them away, reinforcing the feeling of many callers that nobody listens.
“We’re an extremely close team so we can always tell if a colleague is feeling down,” says Nikita. “We always try and boost morale.”
Employers and employees
“People call when they’re worried about sick leave, dismissal, or scared to talk to their boss,” says Nat.
“That’s where the Legal Line is so important – it helps demystify employees’ rights. We also get employers calling, unsure of the legalities.”
“Many young people contact us through web chat,” says Nikita.
“There tends to be a spike around exams and results days, from direct experience to friends and families.”
Every adviser answers calls from people at serious risk.
So how does Connect Assist safeguard both the caller and the adviser?
On each desk, there’s a ‘help’ sign that advisers can hold up. Their team leader or supervisor will come and sit with them and take over if necessary.
The adviser will try to give the caller the confidence to call 111 or 999.
If they are a risk to themselves or someone else, the adviser can call instead.
Although the caller is played a confidentiality message at the start of the call, the advisers also tell the caller if we are going to phone for help.
They will encourage the caller to share their address and other details. This is where it’s vital to have built up trust.
Afterwards, the adviser takes a break before a debriefing with a team leader.
Often, the event will not hit them until they’re back home, so they’ll revisit the call with their manager the next day.
“We can tell when one of our team isn’t okay, even if they put on a brave face.”
Advisors can take a break from calls by responding to emails or texts instead.
There’s also an in-house counsellor, plus an Employee Assistance Programme.
It’s hugely rewarding when somebody calls to say an adviser saved their life.
One adviser, James, recently supported a caller who was planning to end her life. James remained calm and helped her realise there was light at the end of the tunnel.
She phoned back some time later and told Nat that James had convinced her that there were people who cared – even just strangers at the end of a phone.
She said that James’ kindness had kept her alive, and she was now ready to get support.
“It’s moments like this that make every hard day on the phone worthwhile.”
9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays)
0300 123 3393
Text – 86463
Mind Legal Line:
9am to 6pm Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays)
0300 466 6463