It’s ‘Gatt’ time of year again! - Helpline to open all year round
The “Gattline”, as it has become known, is a free and confidential counselling and referral service, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from 1 to 31 December, which Fr Gatt began in 1991. Photo: Library.
By Mark Reidy
Mother Theresa once said that loneliness is the poverty of the western world and Perth priest, Father Michael Gatt, is in full agreement, which is why he will be extending his annual Christmas Helpline to run year-long.
The “Gattline”, as it has become known, is a free and confidential counselling and referral service, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week from 1 to 31 December, which Fr Gatt began in 1991.
The service continued throughout his time as parish priest of St Kieran’s in Osborne Park from 2000 until his retirement in June this year, and he has no intention of stopping the Helpline which has supported so many over the past 24 years.
This is because “retirement” is not a word in the vocabulary of this effervescent cleric, and he is now more passionate than ever to provide a listening ear to those who are lonely and isolated.
“The number of callers over the Christmas period has grown steadily over the years,” Fr Gatt told the eRecord. “I think this is because we are living in a society that is expanding, but support for individuals within it is not.”
Fr Gatt is no longer associated with a particular parish, but has come to recognise the impact the Helpline has had for so many and has decided to not only continue the service this Christmas, but to provide it all year around.
“The month of December has always been the focus of the Helpline, because this can be a particularly difficult period for people without family or support”, he reflected. “But I also realise that many people are also looking for someone to listen and talk to all year round.”
Fr Gatt, along with his team of helpers, has dealt with many difficult issues over the years, ranging from loneliness to domestic violence to threats of suicide and, with 110 calls during the Christmas period last year, he is once again preparing for a month of continuous ringing, both during the day and night.
Calls usually come from people living locally, but have also been received from interstate and even overseas. Fr Gatt will often follow up with callers and, when necessary, will refer them to other services which can provide professional and ongoing assistance.
“Many people were concerned that the Helpline would stop once I finished at St Kieran’s, but I know it is something I must continue to do,” Fr Gatt shared.
“People need to know that there is always someone to turn to in times of difficulty, crisis or despair.”
The Helpline is open 1-31 December and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Contact number is (08) 9440 5379 (please note this is a different number from last year).
People can also seek support by emailing Fr Gatt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information can be found at www.michaelgatt.net.