Frequently asked questions
Why call us?
SOS Help is an English-language emotional support line for the international community in France. Callers choose to contact us for a variety of reasons. We value all calls - and callers - equally. We understand that it can be difficult to talk to a complete stranger - or even someone close to you - about what's troubling you. It's fine to take your time, and to start wherever you need to. We also try to keep up-to-date community information, including details of mental health professionals and other support organisations.
Who are we?
SOS Help was founded in 1974 by a group of American and British health and mental health professionals, with the help of Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans, and with the support of Paris-based English speaking organisations such as the English and American churches and the American Hospital. SOS Help is a non-profit organisation recognised under the French law of 1901. SOS Help is a branch of France's SOS Amitie Federation and is linked to the Samaritans.
The listening team at SOS Help is made up entirely of volunteers. We're trained by mental health professionals, who provide continued training and support, but who do not work on the line. We're trained to listen to you, and not to judge, label or diagnose you. We represent a diverse range of nationalities, ethnicities, orientations, political and religious views, but we are not a religious or political organisation, and will never impose any personal attitudes or beliefs on you.
We are grateful for the support and encouragement of our Honorary Patron, Lady Llewellyn. The wife of the British Ambassador traditionally fills this important role and we are thankful for her continued involvement in SOS Help. We also appreciate the ongoing efforts of our Honorary Members and former Patrons, Lady King, Lady Ricketts, Lady Westmacott, Lady Jay and Lady Holmes.
What happens when you call?
We're here to listen to you, and to help you talk through your concerns, worries and troubles. You are always at the centre of the call. We'll focus on your thoughts and feelings, and won't pry into the details of what's happened. We also won't talk about ourselves, even if you ask us to. When you call us, it's all about you, and you don't need to worry about giving us time in return. We realise that this can feel a bit weird at first, as it's different from everyday conversations, but give it a try.
We recognise that you are best placed to solve your problems, not us, so we'll always consider things from your perspective and never give opinions based on our own personal beliefs. We're here to give you the support and the space you need to work things through. This may help you to think about what you could do and what the options are. We'll support you to decide what's best for you, but we won't make decisions for you, or give our opinions on the decisions you choose to make. You are the expert on your own life, and you are uniquely able to make those choices.
Confidentiality and SOS Help
We believe that confidentiality and anonymity are the cornerstones of the service that we provide, and apply to both callers and listeners. We never ask for your name or contact information, and our phones do not have caller ID, so we can't trace your call. We are, regrettably, unable to accept collect / reverse charge calls, but we do offer a free service by Skype for those with internet access.
We will never share anything you say, or any personal or contact details with anyone outside of the listening team, except in situations of suicide, and this only if you explicitly request our intervention and give us your contact information. Similarly, we won't give out information about ourselves, the location and operation of the post, or the listening schedule, and we won't take in-person meetings with callers.
We listen as a team, and we keep basic information about calls we receive for a short time for statistical purposes. Our listeners take regular supervision from qualified health professionals, and in order to maintain a high standard of care for our callers, ongoing training is provided to all listeners. As such, we may discuss specific issues that arise in calls we receive, but we do our best not to identify the callers in these cases, and this information is never shared outside of the listening team. There may also be occasions when another listener may listen into a call, for training purposes and quality control of our listening service.
Misusing SOS Help Services
We're here for anyone who needs space to talk, but there are a few exceptions when we don't accept calls.
We won't accept:
We will refuse to accept calls or close down calls where we feel our listening service is being misused.
Stopping others from getting through by non-stop calling with the intention of blocking the line.
Using our helpline as a sex line
Ways to contact SOS Help
Call us on 01 46 21 46 46 any day from 3 pm to 11 pm.
Interested in volunteering or have any other questions for us?
Contact us via email at one of the following addresses:
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Please note that all listening services are provided via the phone line - 01 46 21 46 46.
Only queries not directly related to listening should be sent by email.
Why Donate Money to SOS Help?
SOS Help is entirely self-supporting and relies on donations and proceeds from fundraising events to stay up and running. The donations are dedicated to cover the costs of our telephones, premises, publicity, recruitment sessions and training. We receive no financial aid in the form of grants or subventions.
We are dependent upon the support and generosity of the English-speaking community in France and are grateful for the continued support of businesses, charities, churches and private donors.
The following donation levels help SOS Help in very real and tangable ways:
15 euros pays for the cost of running our Listening Post for one day
25 euros pays for our phone bill for one month
50 euros pays for a Listener's monthly support session with a qualified Counsellor
150 euros pays for the training of a new Listener
300 euros pays our phone cost for one year
500 euros pays for our Listening Post for one month
You can donate in the donate bar below.
How to donate used books
Proceeds from fundraising events such as book sales, benefit evenings, and tombolas are the other monetary sources that support SOS Help. One of the most effective ways people help us is by donating used English books (still in good condition!) for our book sales. You can check our events for the latest book sale information and bring your donations directly to the sale. Thank you!