At the other end of the line

By Laura TomassiniLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

454545 is the telephone number that always has an open ear. Whether it is the need to talk about what has happened, for a shoulder to cry on or simply out of loneliness - anyone who calls SOS Détresse needs someone to listen. Even during the pandemic, the helpline rings every day and listeners are more in demand than ever.

It is a very special kind of conversation, in a place that actually has nothing to do with the topic being discussed. Neither journalists nor readers are told the name of the interviewee who talks about her experiences; only Sébastien Hay, director and psychologist at "SOS Détresse – Hëllef iwwer Telefon" reveals his identity. "Anonymity is a basic rule for us, on both sides", explains Hay. On the one hand, to make it easier for callers to appeal, since shame and inhibitions are removed. On the other hand, however, also to protect the people behind the receiver. "That's why we don't have an address anywhere. We are a telephone counselling service and do not provide on-site counselling", says the person responsible.

The employee present at the interview has also been part of the SOS Détresse team for twelve years. However, her training goes back much longer, because she completed it more than 30 years ago abroad. "I have worked in the socio-educational field all my life, but only resumed service on the phone twelve years ago." A lack of jobs drove the counselor to Luxembourg, but here she had to settle in to really understand the concerns and needs of her callers. "I think when you're on the phone, you really have to have arrived in the country and know both the language and the living environment."

Human contact is not a given

As to whether a personal experience led her to sign up for the worry line, the employee answers, "I think all of us need someone to listen to us sometimes. If more people would get on the line, I'm sure we'd have less work at SOS." In life, she said, you always have to pass crises. To master this, you need people who listen to you, with whom you can exchange ideas and who support you. "Of course, I have had crises, but I have always had the privilege of having a good circle of family and friends to turn to", she says.

It doesn't always have to be the big problem that makes you despair. Sometimes life simply throws growth challenges your way. What's often missing in society are everyday conversations with others. "I think a lot of callers may have never had a positive experience with others or never learned to build and nurture relationships in an everyday and wonderful way due to traumatic experiences in childhood." A friendship, a loved one – something that SOS Détresse cannot replace, but whose effectiveness can be at least somewhat mimicked with often seemingly mundane questions.

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At the other end of the line

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