Sometimes moving to the most exciting places in the world can be daunting, especially if you’re facing new challenges alone. Without the support of family or friends, the pressure of figuring everything out can lead to anxiety and even depression.
Did you know there is a telephone hotline in Paris that you can call to talk to someone?
SOS HELP has been a valuable lifeline for “expats” in Paris for over 30 years. Back in the 1970‘s, when Paris was becoming a hub for a large number of foreigners, health care workers at the American Hospital noticed an increase in psychiatric emergencies among expatriates who were struggling to adapt without a network of family and friends.
The response, with the support from the pastor of the American Church in Paris, was to start an English-speaking suicide prevention line. A secondary objective was to offer a listening service for callers who needed to simply talk about any problem. SOS Help first opened to start receiving calls on October 1st, 1974.
SOS Help: 01 46 21 46 46
from 3pm to 11pm daily.
Feeling down? Call us up!
Every day of the week throughout the year, volunteers discreetly man the phone from an undisclosed location. Veteran volunteer Christine Payne says, “Our calls are confidential. Each call is different; but in general, callers express isolation, anxiety, difficult family or partner relationships. For some who have long term physical or mental illness, we may be part of their network. Others may call once or twice whilst in a personal crisis.”
People who move to a foreign country undergo a major life challenge and each person deals with the pressures and demands differently. And if you don’t know the language, it isn’t always obvious as to where to turn to for help. The international community today is not as isolated as before. People can stay connected with Internet access, travel more cheaply, benefit from lower or zero telephone tariffs, and, with the birth of social media, remain in contact with family, friends and peers. Still, the need for SOS Help in Paris persists.
Christine Payne moved to Paris from Britain 25 years ago and has been a volunteer on the hotline for 15 years. “We started at four hours per day, and are now available eight hours per day,” says Christine, who organizes communications and helps out with fundraising. SOS Help is self-supporting and relies on fundraising to help pay for training workshops. The community service actively recruits volunteers twice a year.
“High turnover is expected, as most volunteers are expats. Career and family events intervene – some listeners are posted elsewhere; others leave when they start their families. But new people arrive and some new retirees join. New listeners bring fresh ideas and older ones benefit from refresher training,” explains Christine.
SOS Help is recruiting new listeners at the end of January, a period where phone calls to the hotline increases. What qualities make a good listener? “Empathy, patience and the ability to avoid judgment or the offering of advice, however well-meaning. Our callers need to be heard and we try to help them navigate their own way through their own difficulty.”
Volunteers are invited to learn more about how they can join the SOS Help team of listeners and receive training from mental health professionals. The community service is a 15-month commitment that could be a life changer for someone in need.