How the helpline started
OutWest was originally established in 1997 as Mayo Roscommon Outreach by a number of gay individuals, to provide the members of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community in the west and north west of Ireland with a support network.
OutWest endeavours to offer support, information and friendship to those who seek it. It holds monthly meetings, and regular gay discos and other social functions at a variety of venues in the west of Ireland.
But Not Every Gay Person Attends…
However, for a variety of reasons, not every gay, lesbian and bisexual individual in the west and north west of Ireland is able (or feels comfortable) to attend these meetings and social events.
This may be due to lack of confidence, worry about being “outed” if seen attending monthly meetings or gay discos, or social isolation (living in a remote area), amongst other things.
In 2002 the committee of OutWest, with the support of the members, came up with the idea of trying to set up a gay helpline in an attempt to provide support for these individuals.
Funding was sourced from the Ireland Funds and volunteers were trained. All the volunteers are either gay or bisexual themselves and have been trained to be non-judgemental, non-directive, and to offer warmth and understanding to all of the callers.
The Western Health Board kindly provided office space, and the Helpline was finally launched in September 2003. Since then it has operated once a week from 8:00pm to 10:00pm – initially on Wednesday evenings – and then (from January 1st 2013) it was changed to Thursday evenings from 8:00pm to 10pm.
So Who Rings The Helpline?
Calls have been received from all walks of life, from the unemployed to professionals, farmers, unskilled and skilled workers, married men, parents who happen to be gay, parents of gay children, and college students. People of all ages, from 17 to over 70 have contacted the Helpline.
And What Do We Offer?
The Helpline offers information ranging from details of gay venues, OutWest meetings and functions, and sexual health issues.
The Helpline also offers a non judgemental listening ear, that is totally confidential, to people who may be having difficulty accepting or dealing with their own sexuality, or with the sexuality of a family member, friend or colleague.
Since the beginning, the Helpline has been in great demand and the volunteers have been kept busy with calls.
Unfortunately OutWest are restricted by lack of funding, both for the cost of the telephone line and the training of volunteers.
Remember that the volunteers who man the line do so in an entirely voluntary capacity, give up their own time to do so, and receive no payment whatsoever for the important service that they provide.
So, if you don’t get through first time, please keep trying.
What The First Year Has Shown
Given the high turnout at theOutWest functions, and more importantly the high volumes of calls received on the Helpline, it is obvious that there is a need for an organisation like OutWest and its Helpline.
Gay people come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Even if you yourself are not gay, it could be that a member of your family, a neighbour, classmate, workmate or friend is gay and needs support, friendship and understanding.
How To Contact The Helpline
TheOutWest Gay Helpline operates every Thursday night from 8.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m.
Phone 094-9372479 in confidence to speak to one of our trained volunteers.
OutWest wish to extend special thanks the Ireland Funds for their generous grant towards the training of the Helpline volunteers and the cost of advertising the service.
We would also like to extend thanks to the Western Health Board who so kindly provided premises for the Helpline.