Connecting was formed in July 2005 by a group of concerned citizens under the initiative of Arnavaz Damania. The group had a fervent desire to extend support to those experiencing emotional distress. Several volunteers contributed their time and effort to the cause and Connecting expanded both the scope as well as the reach of its work.
Connecting was founded on the vision of creating a caring and compassionate world where everyone is connected to life. Connecting works to prevent suicide by creating awareness and to provide support to those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Connecting programs aim to create awareness for suicide prevention, reduce stigma and shame associated with mental health and suicide and to create support groups in the community who are trained to respond to mental health crisis.
In 2008, Connecting took a huge step forward by launching a Helpline for those in distress or feeling suicidal. Since then we have added many new initiatives including the Peer Education Program in schools, the Survivors of Suicide Support program, Community Counseling program and workshops for professionals and stress management workshops in industries.
We accompany the community with an approach that we characterize with the Acronym SALT.
Support (be supportive ), Stimulate (stimulate your community to grow).
Appreciate (give positive strengthening), Ask (ask in order to learn), Awareness (practice a mindful approach).
Listen (practice active listening), Learn (be aware that you are constantly learning from others).
Team (team up with people around you), Transfer (transfer what you learn into different contexts), Trust (be trustworthy and trust your community).
The principles of the helpline provide the framework within which we offer emotional support to those in emotional distress and/or feeling suicidal across all our programs. The principles are not listed in order of importance or priority as they all are interconnected and support each other.
We allow the caller the right to disclose or not disclose any identifying information about himself or herself. To provide a sense of safety, respect and trust, we do not probe for name, location, phone number or any other identifying information. We also do not disclose identifying information about ourselves as volunteers. However, we may choose to give our name or an assumed name. This is based on the understanding that the relationship shared, although as equals, is not a mutual one.
An exception is made when there is high risk, (Level 3), where a caller can be asked if they can be contacted in case help (for example, an ambulance) is wanted. In case it is refused, we respect that as well.
To provide a sense of safety, respect and trust, we offer confidentiality of the service. Confidentiality means we do not disclose or discuss calls outside of the helpline. When callers ask whether we do share information, they can be assured that whatever is shared is kept within the organisation.
We honestly convey what we do offer on the helpline and what we cannot. We do so in a caring and sensitive way, always seeking to make an emotional connection irrespective of what the caller might be seeking. We offer emotional support to those in emotional distress and/or feeling suicidal. We care and we are here to offer the emotional support is the message we would like to leave all callers with.
We offer as a group to be available to people in emotional distress and/or feeling suicidal from 12 to 8 p.m. on all days. As a volunteer, we commit to being there before time for our weekly slot and are available till the caller hangs up (even if that goes beyond our time slot). We as volunteers, have a right to put down the phone on occasions where the caller is abusive or seeking sexual gratification or if it a silent call. On all occasions we ensure that we have attempted to explore the emotional distress and leave the possibility open to the caller to call when they seek the emotional support that we choose to offer. Availability also implies that when we are there for our slot, we switch off our cell phones, disengage from other work and are completely there for the caller.
Non judgemental, accepting and non advisory listening
We offer deep listening. For the duration of the call, at least, we notice and suspend our own judgments. For the duration of the call, at least, we are accepting of the caller and his/her world. For the duration of the call, at least, we refrain from giving advice.
We offer deep listening for several reasons
So the caller feels heard, understood, acknowledged.
So the caller feels a deep human contact with a volunteer and perhaps does not feel so alone.
So that caller experiences unconditional acceptance.
So the caller can sift through his/her thoughts, emotions, and decisions in the loving presence of a volunteer.
So the caller is not afraid to look at feelings of pain, sorrow and can fully acknowledge all his experiences with the felt acceptance and support of a volunteer.
So the caller feels safe to express his thoughts and feelings, including those of suicide to a volunteer.
So the caller feels more empowered to take decisions that he/she feels are appropriate.
We are present to the moment and whatever arises in the truth of that moment, both for the caller and within ourselves. We attempt to take a call, moment by moment at the pace determined by the caller. We attempt to become aware of the reactions within us (thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, breath) and allow those reactions to pass and again enter into a clear space with the caller. We bring ourselves back to the present moment by rooting part of our awareness within our body. We allow ourselves to be present to `essence’ (transpersonal qualities of love, peace, joy) within ourselves and within the caller. We `allow’ by not expecting this to happen.
We listen and are present to the caller with empathy. We attempt to understand the caller’s world as he/she experiences it. All we do during the call is to tune in to the experience of the caller and reflect that understanding.
We are respectful of the caller’s right and ability to decide his/her course of action even if it at variance with our own value system. We are respectful of all callers and provide that same space irrespective of their age, sex, caste, creed, geographical location.
We are committed to take care of our own emotional well being and growth. This is based on the wisdom that we cannot be fully there if we are located in a place of distress ourselves. At the end of each call, we discuss the call and our feelings about it with a mentor. We attempt to consciously inculcate and develop our own practices that restore or strengthen our equilibrium or sense of well being. Recommended practices: Meditation, Mindful Living, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Somatic Experiencing, Yoga, Pranayam, Qi Gong, Tai Chi. We attempt to be aware of our own emotional status and decide whether we can engage with taking calls for the day or for a particular time period. We discuss our concerns with one of the mentors through the de-briefing process.