Guiding light in a sea of despair

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 August, 1996, 12:00am

Librarian Joyce Chow Yuen-fun, 42, comes from a family of nine. She is the only one of her siblings still living with her parents in a public housing flat in Choi Hung. She is single.

Ten years ago she became a volunteer counsellor with the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, helping callers on the crisis hotline.

What's on your mind? I can't help thinking about the student who tried to commit suicide this week after being rejected for admission to Form Six in his own school despite his good marks in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education exam.

I get many callers who tell me they feel this sort of despair. They all feel like it is the end of the world and that life offers no hope. But we all make mistakes from time to time. It does not mean you will be penalised for the rest of your life. I think we need to be more flexible, kinder and more benevolent to each other.

What can you do about it? I don't think I can do much more than I do in manning the crisis line.

But personally, I think I would like to take a degree programme in psychology. The longer I spend counselling, the more I feel a need to know more about psychology.

Do you get emotionally involved with callers? A normal call lasts from 30 minutes to two hours. It is all about listening. You will be amazed at how people feel the need to tell their stories. I have been listening to troubled housewives, emotional students and heavy debtors.

On the one hand, I have to offer my sympathy to them and understand their problems from their point of view. On the other hand, I need to keep my own life distant.

When I started, I got too involved with my callers' emotional problems. As time goes by, I am able to help them to cool down and think rationally. I can separate my life from them.

What are your plans for the day? I plan to go to a farewell party because another counsellor is emigrating. I think I will have more parties like that as we get closer to 1997.

The Samaritans Crisis Hotline is 2389 2222.