When I was a psychiatric nurse in training, one phrase was always drummed into us students when dealing with " difficult" patients
" Reject the a behaviour never the person"
Sometimes it's a difficult rule to follow.
Last night I worked a late shift at Samaritans. The late night/early morning stint is usually a busy one with the phones constantly ringing, call after call after call. It can be a challenging and rewarding shift , and it one that I prefer to work on given the fact I am mentoring two new volunteers who would gain invaluable experience with the different myriad of callers.
Recently The Samaritans have implemented a freephone number and subsequently there has been an increased demand for the service. Anecdotally, I have noticed an increase in " crank" calls getting through to volunteers with sex callers making up a significant proportion of these incoming calls.
Of course the intensive Samaritan training covers strategies for dealing with sex callers. The caller is not rejected but the behaviour is , and the Samaritan is trained to take charge of the call, firmly but kindly bringing the call to an end unless the challenge opens up another avenue of discussion.
However sometimes it is difficult to remain upbeat when time after time you have been asked to describe the colour of your pants , or to listen to a caller in the throws of masturbation, and it's a little heartbreaking to see the disappointment on the face of the new volunteers after another crank call blocks the lines, preventing a genuine caller from getting through to some help.
Last night, we must have received a dozen such calls, and I must admit, instead of the usual " I am ending this call" conclusion to one man who wanted me to listen to what he wanted to do to small girls , I asked him gently if he understood that he was blocking the line from callers who were in genuine distress.
Characteristically the line went dead.
And seconds late the same man, with the same story was talking to my colleague.
Such is the nature of the beast.