Pastoral care helpline gives advice about easing distress caused by crisis

A person looking at a phone
A person looking at a phone Source: The Ministry of the Social Affairs

As of noon of June 17, a pastoral care helpline is open, where those in need can call 24 hours a day and ask for advice to alleviate a crisis caused by illness or accident. The pastoral care phone is funded by the government's reserve fund.

As reported on ERR News, the helpline was promised following the announcement that a pastoral care portal (Estonian: Hingeabiportaal) had been founded, led by the Estonian Council of Churches (Eesti Kirkute Nõukogu).  

One of the respondents is the theologian Siimon Haamer, who coordinates the work of the team of telephone pastoral caretakers, said ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera". 

The work of pastors is in this area similar to the work of psychologists. In addition to that, they have naturally studied theology. Churches signed up to the council are listed on its website as the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK), along with the Roman Catholic Church in Estonia, the Estonian Orthodox Church (Constatinople Patriarchate), the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia (Moscow Patriarchate) as well as several Protestant denominations including baptist, methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, pentecostal and charismatic churches.

"A pastor's wish is to help a person, based on their views and religious beliefs. The pastor does not promote the aid process with their religious views, but they have a religious dimension, a spiritual understanding," Haamer said. 

Calls to 116 123 are free, and the helpline is open both day and night. On calling the line Thursday morning, the operator responded quickly and spoke English.

"We don't expect people to make short and few-minute calls, but those calls can be much longer than expected," Haamer said. 

The helpline also co-operates with the emergency center's state information telephone 1247 - the crisis helpline set up during the coronavirus emergency situation and which is still running - and the regular emergency number 112.

During the emergency lockdown, both numbers accepted calls where people could talk through their loneliness and fears. These calls can now be transferred to the pastors on the 116 123 line.

"Vice versa, if a person dials this number themselves and turns to the chaplains, and if they realize that there is urgent intervention is needed, then the connection works the other way round, so that the 112 calls can be transferred immediately and we can send an ambulance," said the director of the emergency center's (Häirekeskus) general director Kätlin Alvela. 

During the emergency lockdown, a helpline phone was set up to help those in care homes. This line will no longer continue. 

"We also gained experience of how important it is actually to provide such telephone support and advice. From this, the current pastoral care helpline was created," said Ove Sander, general chaplain at the Ministry of the Social Affairs. 

Pastor Sander said the state will fund the pastoral care helpline until the end of the year. If it seems that people are still in need of more occasional telephone counseling, it will be funded next year as well. 


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Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein

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