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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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First person: First aid

May 15 2018
Denise Collins is training as a football coach and loves the beautiful game. Inspired by the World Cup 2018 in Russia (14 Jun–15 July) she created this cartoon as a reminder that you can escape domestic violence. Denise Collins is training as a football coach and loves the beautiful game. Inspired by the World Cup 2018 in Russia (14 Jun–15 July) she created this cartoon as a reminder that you can escape domestic violence.
Talking to a stranger at the Listening Place can save lives, writes Matt Hobbs

Talking to a stranger at the Listening Place can save lives

The strength it takes to utter the words “I want to kill myself” is impossible to comprehend. Feeling these syllables fall from the mouth of a loved one fills the gut with fear.

My friend never wanted to be a burden but I felt responsible; I feared for her safety and worried I wouldn’t be able to help.

Her thoughts of suicide were a daily occurrence. She had been on the waiting list to receive psychological therapies for more than a year but in the meantime was left to sink or swim. On the nights she couldn’t cope, and I could no longer reach her, I swallowed my pride and surrendered myself to A&E once again. Her requests for help were met with exhausted eyes, waiting rooms, assessment times and awkward 4am discharges. We were left defeated.

“If I tried to kill myself, then I would get help,” she said. It was agony, but this is the bleak reality of a broken system that mops up human misery rather than offering preventive support. So, we kept returning to A&E.

The Listening Place offers a way to break this cycle. It’s a safe space that provides free face-to-face support for people “who feel life is no longer worth living”. It was during one of our visits waiting for Dr Godot that we found out about the Listening Place in a Google search. Next morning, we called to make an appointment – she could be seen within the week.

Behind Pimlico station we were greeted in a patio garden by a receptionist who had a genuine knack of putting us at ease. We were ushered towards a sofa in the leafy lounge, and given cups of tea, while we briefly waited for a volunteer who is trained to listen. This enabled my friend to explore her thoughts and feelings of suicide without fear of judgement or concern.

Usually the person sees the same listener fortnightly, for up to three months, to offer consistency and support. However, if in need of greater support this can be increased to weekly meetings over a longer period.

When my friend left her first session I noticed a change in mood immediately. She was hopeful and felt understood; there was a future and one that did not always involve clinical corridors and revolving doors.

The Listening Place is not a panacea, but it does offer hope and possibility. My friend is still awaiting therapy, but support is no longer looming in the distance. There are people now who are prepared to sit, listen and understand. It isn’t weak to ask for help from your suicidal feelings.

I hope that one day the words “I want to kill myself” will break through bureaucracy and lead to the greater provision of spaces, such as the Listening Place, where you can speak and be heard with care and respect.

www.listeningplace.org.uk ; 020 3906 7676

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