Dealing With Suicidal Callers
Our company has very high public exposure in terms of marketing and media, which prompts a massive range of people to call us for lots of different things (we’re a legal firms CC). More recently, and sadly, we’ve been receiving calls from despondent and desperate members of public who have various problems in their lives and are considering suicide.
We have come up with a good strategy to deal with the call itself and refer the individual to the relevant authority or support line, however my question is how can we support the call agent who takes that call and has to deal with it? It can be an incredible pressure to have to handle, and could be quite upsetting for the less experienced or more sensitive agents. We have an external employee assistance program phone number for them to call for all sorts of help (on which they can speak to a counsellor).
I was wondering if anyone had any other tips or advice on how to deal with this situation.
Question asked by Paul
Offer Better Counselling
I think that you need to offer better counselling than just a phone number to call.
If an advisor is clearly upset following a call, you should allow them to have a one-to-one session with their team manager or contact centre manager. This allows them to deal with things straight away. You could have a contract with a counsellor who comes in every week or two and then you can set up an appointment for that time. You also should not penalise the employee in having to use their own time for the counselling session.
With thanks to Jonty
Introduce MHFA (Mental Health First Aiders) & Staff Self Care
Training on how to deal with these calls in communication techniques and role plays practising responses and a really important part is about boundaries so they don’t feel ‘responsible’ which can leave your staff worrying about the caller for days/weeks after. Maybe a process where they call the caller back 48hrs later to see how they are.
After each call (if customer has discussed suicide) have a process where they need to check in with their team leader/manager. The team leader can offer support and ask about how they are feeling, sign post to list of self care actions they may wish to consider. Self care can range from a walk, talk to friend/colleague, journal how they are feeling, nice cup of tea. In addition have MHFA available who they can speak to and the MHFA can introduce the employee assistance line if required.
With thanks to Tori