Crisis hot line calls up 500% [pg. 4]

The escalating violence in the north has taken an emotional toll on Israelis nationwide.

The escalating violence in the north has taken an emotional toll on Israelis nationwide, said the head of a support hot line on Thursday. "Since the start of the war, calls have increased from about 12,000 calls monthly to over 33,000 calls in the past two weeks," said Tsila Neumann, director of Eran, a hot line which provides free and confidential 24-hour help, including emotional support, to those who are lonely, depressed or going through a personal crisis. "The nature of the calls has been very different in the last two weeks, different from our regular population of callers who are chronically lonely, mentally ill and struggle with issues of communication," said a 15-year veteran Eran hot line volunteer who asked not to be identified. "We have been getting a lot of calls from people from the North who have been stuck inside of bombs shelters for many days," said Neumann. Originally founded in 1971, Eran has expanded from its original center in Jerusalem to an organization with over 1,000 volunteers in ten cities, with services in Hebrew, English, Russian, Arabic and Amharit. Each of the volunteers undergoes over 100 hours of training by medical professionals. Neumann said callers over the last two weeks have expressed anxiety and trepidation. "These people are overwhelmed with feelings of stress and fear, they can no longer think properly," added Neumann. "In many instances, parents call pretending to be speaking on behalf of their children who are very distressed by this situation, when, in the end, it is usually themselves that they are speaking about," noted the volunteer. The volunteer explained that calls generally last about 20 minutes. "The most helpful part is for them to have someone to share their feelings with, knowing that they are actually listening," she said. After about 20 minutes, "I usually get the feeling that the person on the other end is reassured and feels better," said the volunteer, "but not necessarily all the time. Sometimes people are too frustrated when they call and are not receptive to advice," the volunteer added. To contact the hot line, call the four-digit number 1201.