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Telephone counseling: first point of contact for worries and needs

The first action field "Mental Health" of the Volunteering Capital started on March 4, 2021 with a digital kick-off event on the various telephone pastoral care areas of the Diakonie, a panel discussion with full-time and voluntary workers, parallel workshops and a scientific lecture on the psychological effects of the pandemic on everyday life.

© Gundula Vogel (pixabay)

"Today, the challenges posed by the pandemic are very high. We are also experiencing our own concern, we are all in the middle of it and we do not know what the future will look like. The coexistence between volunteering and the main office can make a lot of difference during this time. With these words, Diakonie Director Barbara Eschen opened the digital kick-off event of the Mental Health Action Field and welcomed the approximately 50 participants.

removal of barriers and creation of framework conditions

According to Ludger Jungnitz from the Senate Administration for Health and Care, the title of the European Volunteering Capital is an incentive to improve the framework conditions for the Berlin Senate. Volunteering and volunteer work stand for social cohesion and quality of life. Jungnitz emphasized the role of the state as an enabler, while pointing out that Berlin does not start from scratch. The Berlin volunteering strategy, for example, already focuses on breaking down barriers, creating framework conditions and the opportunities offered by digitization. Public recognition and recognition of voluntary commitment also play an important role, Jungnitz said. Afterwards, volunteers from the Diakonie presented their respective areas of work: telephone counseling and the Corona-telephone-counseling, the parents' telephone Berlin-Brandenburg, the online counseling for children and young people, the children's and youth telephone Berlin, the Russian-speaking telephone counseling Doweria as well as the Muslim pastoral telephone MuTes.

„Telephone counseling is like Coca-Cola – the world knows it, but no one knows what's in it.“

Uwe Müller, head of the church's telephone counseling in Berlin

"Telephone counseling is like Coca-Cola – the world knows it, but no one knows what's in it," said Uwe Müller, head of the church's telephone counseling in Berlin. Corona had led to volunteers who belong to or are in contact with the risk group withdrawing from the service. At the same time, it was foreseeable that the volume of talks and the need for telephone counseling would increase. This is how the idea of the Corona-counseling-phone was born. Cathrin Clift, who works as a supervisor and trainer for the Church Telephone Counseling Berlin-Brandenburg, coordinates the Coronatelephone-counseling. With the telephone counseling from home, it was necessary to work out a new area in order to keep the community of volunteers together, according to Clift.

contact point for worries and needs

Sabine Marx has been head of the Diakonie-E-Mail-counseling for children and young people since May 2012, a cooperation project between DWBO and KiKA, the children's channel of ARD and ZDF. She said the demand for counseling from the parent phone number against grief had also risen enormously after the 1st lockdown. And where the parents are, the children are not far away and so the children's and youth telephone is also an important first point of contact for the concerns and needs of those who do not know other adult interlocutors. "The volunteer telephone counselors are translators and door openers, help boxes," says Marx.

doors into all abysses

"But there are also doors opening into all the abysses, which are also part and preparation of the very good preparation classes (bulimia, cyberbullying, sexualized violence, etc.). Corona reinforces the already unstable conditions," explained a volunteer who has been involved in child and telephone counseling for several years. Imran Sagir, Head of the Muslim Telephone Counseling (MuTes) and Tatjana Michalak, Head of the Russian-speaking Telephone Counseling Doweria, who also presented their field, will discuss the acute increase in the need for counseling, new tasks for volunteers, enthusiasm for innovation and a great willingness to cooperate with other fulltimepersonnel and volunteers from the presented projects. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Christiane Metzner, Head of Studies for Volunteering in the Office of Ecclesiastical Services at the EKBO, and Konrad Müller, Head of the Volunteer Center of the Diakonie. Afterwards, the approximately 50 participants of the Mental Health Action Field had the opportunity to exchange ideas in six parallel thematic workshops. Topics were: Corona, #E-Mental-Health, Dedicated Newcomers, inclusive Volunteering , Doing Mental Health yourself and European cooperations in the field of telephone pastoral care.

psychological impact of the pandemic

At the end of the digital launch event, Dr. Annegret Wolf from the Institute of Psychology at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg gave a lecture on the topic "Corona Side-Effects – Current Findings on the Psychological Effects of the Pandemic on Our Everyday Life". This was followed by a discussion that brought the day to a successful conclusion with lively participation and controversial points of view: Dr. Annegret Wolf, known on the MDR Corona Psychology Podcast, warned of the role of the virus, which had been treated rather poorly so far, with regard to the psychological effects. In addition to the pandemic, an infodemia can also be identified, the multitude of partly contradictory information is overwhelming and causes helplessness. It is important to remain able to act, to create predictability and to regain a certain degree of control. Mental stress problems, which are currently emerging in many, are particularly important for the nursing staff, Wolf said. "The pandemic measures are intended to protect against infection, but also lead to (new) diseases or consequential damage," Wolf explained. While older people have been relatively well through this pandemic, "one in three children has stress disorders. 8 out of 10 children indicate reduced joie de vivre, including headaches and back pain." Here, too, it may well make sense to bring young people more into voluntary work in order to involve them socially, Wolf suggested.

The digital kick-off event is the first event of the "Mental Health" action field of the European Volunteering Capital Berlin 2021, which brings together various actors from the field.