“It is rewarding to lend a helping hand.”

“Wah, brother, today many problem.”

When Asaph had first answered the call from a migrant brother in December 2021, he couldn’t sense what the issue was. However, after using the guiding questions that HealthServe had provided him, Asaph noticed that the caller opened up quickly. Tearing up over the phone, the migrant brother shared that his employer had physically abused him, and he lacked a support system in his dormitory.

“That was when I knew it was a serious case,” he recalled. Crisis helpline volunteers like himself are trained to assess the gravity of the caller’s emotional distress. In some situations, they would ask if the caller had thoughts of suicide. 

“I was very nervous when I asked that question. I didn’t know what to expect,” Asaph said. After the migrant brother had expressed his suicidal thoughts, Asaph contacted the crisis helpline staff for support. This was later escalated to Justin, HealthServe’s former head of Mental Health and Counselling Services.

A four-way call was immediately set up between Asaph, Justin, the crisis helpline staff, and the caller. Thankfully, he had friends and family he could turn to for help in the meantime. The next morning, a case worker from HealthServe visited him in his dormitory to offer him psychosocial support.

“Dealing with it was not an easy experience,” Asaph admitted. “But as someone who intends to enter the social service, it definitely helped me grow as a person.” Despite his desire to support the marginalised migrant worker community, he was initially hesitant to become a crisis helpline volunteer as he was unsure if he could adequately support the callers in times of emotional distress.  

However, Asaph found HealthServe’s interactive training helpful in his journey as a crisis helpline volunteer. In the sessions he attended, he learnt how to administer psychological first-aid through active listening, and frameworks for suicide risk assessment. Today, he continues to apply his valuable knowledge in daily life as a more empathetic and emotionally sensitive friend. Through his interactions with the migrant brothers and case workers, he gained a better understanding of the mental health landscape. 

“While our migrant brothers are very strong, there’s still a limit to how much someone can bear.” Asaph said. “That is why being a crisis helpline volunteer offers you a sense of fulfilment. While there are many avenues to offer physical and financial support to our migrant brothers, we also have to address their mental and emotional needs. In such scenarios, when they have no one to turn to, we can directly help them.”

In the process of attending to callers, crisis helpline volunteers may be exposed to triggering topics. Hence, in training sessions, trigger warnings and regular checkpoints create a safe space for volunteers to raise their concerns privately to the staff should they feel uncomfortable. Asaph also shared that after answering every call, the telecommunication system would prompt the volunteers to rate their feelings. If the volunteer gives a low rating, a staff member would approach them privately to offer support. After the call from the migrant brother, Justin had checked in with Asaph and asked if he was experiencing any distress.

Asaph believes almost anyone with an open mind and who is willing to provide a patient listening ear to our migrant brothers can be a crisis helpline volunteer after undergoing HealthServe’s training. “The beauty of being a crisis helpline volunteer lies in both the training sessions and interactions with our migrant brothers. You really experience a lot of personal growth,” Asaph smiled. “It is rewarding to lend a helping hand. Be it a brother or a volunteer, no one would be left to deal with their struggles alone.”

Today, Asaph is a staff in HealthServe, and he has also contributed to HealthServe’s outreach events. To offer a listening ear and helping hand to our migrant friends, sign up as a crisis helpline volunteer here: hs.ngo.sg/helplinevolunteer

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