The whole of Munich was in a state of emergency last night – and that also applied to the telephone counselling service. Alexander Fischhold, head of the Catholic telephone counselling service in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising, had to oversee the situation from Aachen and react accordingly.
our siteHow was the situation for you yesterday evening and during the night??
Alexander Fischhold, head of the Catholic telephone counselling service in the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising: For me personally, it was a bit difficult, because I am currently in Aachen, where the world congress of the telephone counselling service took place and today the 60th anniversary of the telephone counselling service is being celebrated. I tried to follow up on what had happened via the news and virtual media and contacted my colleagues at the telephone counselling service in Munich very early on to get an idea of what was going on. I noticed that the city was being sealed off more and more, which was also a massive problem for our volunteers at first, because they couldn’t get home from work and couldn’t get into the service. Of course, it was important for us to staff the telephone counselling service, especially on a night like this, which is bound to trigger fears and anxieties in many people. That was one part. The other: My family is in Munich. Of course I was also worried about my wife and my children… We don’t live too far from the scene of the incident, so it seemed quite close.
our siteHow did you as a telephone counsellor react to this situation and how was your offer accepted by the people??
FischholdSo I soon got in touch with a colleague in Munich and also discussed the matter with the head of the Protestant telephone counselling service, who is here in Aachen. We tried to motivate our neighboring locations in Augsburg, Ingolstadt, Passau and Rosenheim to bring in more people. Then we changed everything technically so that the calls from Munich could also be processed there, because we already had quite a high volume of calls. The calls were probably not all always very specifically indicated as to the occasion. But such a threatening situation triggers fears in our callers, many of whom are also mentally ill, fears that are not really tangible, but disturbing. The callers then need us even more than usual.
our siteYou just mentioned it: What are the concerns that people bring to you in this kind of situation??
FischholdThese are fears on the one hand: Can something happen there?? I have always expected this. On the other hand, we also get calls from people who graze in the right field and say: We have always known it. Or: Where will we end up with all these refugees?? They are simply fears that arise. I didn’t talk that much to my volunteers that night, because I didn’t want to burden them too much by always asking what was going on. What was reported to me, however, is that the threat has really come close and even if much was not concretely tangible – for many the threat to life and limb was palpable. One has noticed: The threat comes nevertheless close.
our siteHow difficult is it for the employees themselves, who first have to deal with the new and completely unfamiliar situation – not least with their own fear??
FischholdFor them it was as unclear as it is for all of us. The situation has become very unclear over the hours. Of course, it is important to know that we train our employees a lot in this context and thus try to keep their backs free. Particularly in the context of psychological trauma, we have already had training this year, so that they have already been able to deal with their own fears to some extent and we are also looking to ensure that they are really made fit and know: What can I do?? How to listen? What is important to callers at this moment? So, that the employees do not feel themselves incapable of acting, but that they really have the feeling: I can also be helpful and am not overwhelmed by it. This is an important aspect of it.
our site: As a Munich resident, what do you say about how the city should now get out of this state of shock?
FischholdWe Munichers here at the Kongfress in Aachen stood together yesterday and had a lot of fear that we would come back to a changed city. I hope, however, that it will not be like that and that panic and fear will not capture people completely, but that what makes Munich special – cordiality and warmth – will be preserved. Above all, I hope that even more mistrust will not develop toward the refugees, because in 99.9 percent of the cases, these are simply people who are in need and who come here because they have no prospects in their countries and because their lives are threatened. They are now no different from us. That is why I wish for solidarity and not for the situation to escalate.
The interview was conducted by Christian Schlegel.