Retiring Lifeline volunteer Carmel Harris, left, is handing over the reins to Carol Makhoul after more than two decades of service.FOR almost 30 years Carmel Harris has lent a caring ear to thousands of people reaching out for help.
Nanjing Night Net

Mrs Harris will soon retire as manager of counselling services at Lifeline South West Victoria, where she has worked for 22 years.

First involved in telephone counselling at a Ballarat pregnancy support service in 1984, she returned to her home town of Warrnambool in 1989 to volunteer as a telephone counsellor at Lifeline.

“It is still basically people having trouble coping with day-to-day living,” Mrs Harris said.

“Mostly it is to do with suicide, mental health, relationships, loneliness and grief and loss. The issues haven’t changed over the years.

“We’re all human so we always have the same problems.”

She said the once local centre was now part of a national service handling calls from across the country, making counselling services even more accessible to those in need.

“People have access to the service at any time of the day or night.

“Another advantage is that calls are confidential unless there is a safety issue.

“Most people have a mobile phone and can call free, and young people can now access our counselling in chat rooms.”

Despite dealing with people in distress, Mrs Harris has found counselling fulfilling and not personally stressful.

“Specialist training and supervision have assisted me in providing the care caller’s need.

“Recognising the importance of self-care for the counselling practitioner as well as for the caller is essential.”

For the past month Mrs Harris has been passing on her Lifeline knowledge to her successor, Carol Makhoul , who already has experience in face-to-face counselling, mediation and family dispute resolution.

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