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Helpline, Hotline, Lifeline

Malky Lowinger

By any name, mental health helplines staffed by volunteers provide care, sensitivity, and a virtual shoulder to cry on for residents of greater New York. Here are their stories.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Somewhere out there, in this great big and sometimes scary world, somebody desperately needs help. The assistance needed may be something as simple as a referral to a doctor’s office, but could also be something as complex as dealing with a dysfunctional family relationship. Those looking for a little support might include a newlywed anxious about her mother-in-law, or an elderly person who is scared to leave the house. Whatever the issue, the first step to solving it is often the hardest — reaching out for help. Over the past few decades, the Orthodox community has been fortunate to have the help that we need presented to us — literally — at our fingertips. As a tremendous chesed, volunteers have established several hotlines — or helplines — that provide guidance, direction, advice, and assistance. No problem is too small, no difficulty too great, for these hotlines. For anyone in distress, help can be just a phone call away.   Big Hearts Ever wondered what a “hotline headquarters” looks like? Perhaps a large, dimly lit room littered with used coffee cups and stale pizza crusts? Or an office filled with rows of desks and computer monitors? And at each of those desks an earnest and intense hotline representative with red-rimmed eyes and a crumpled shirt, clearly suffering from lack of sleep? It doesn’t really look that way at all. We spoke to the men and women who work at the Yitti Leibel Helpline, Shalom Task Force, and Achiezer, three dedicated helplines that serve the Orthodox community in the New York area. Invariably, the staff members were even-keeled, normal, and compassionate individuals. They have probably seen and heard it all, yet they are able to rise above the hopelessness and despair. Their tremendous hearts are bursting with ahavas Yisrael, and because of this they are willing to donate huge chunks of their time to help their fellow Jews in need.

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