Helen Alves on what happens when people go missing

The senior services manager at Missing People says her role varies between reactive and proactive work

Helen Alves
Helen Alves

My role is to support the delivery of services at Missing People's central office.

When families get in touch with us to say someone's gone missing, we help them speak to the police. With the permission of the police, we organise poster campaigns and offer the family a support worker. If the missing person gets in touch, sometimes we need to liaise with the police, or help mediate with the family.

We run a free, 24-hour, confidential helpline for children and adults who have gone missing and people who are looking for their missing people.

I vary between responsive and proactive work - making sure we've got volunteers for each shift and managing them, but then looking at the further development of our services.

I've previously worked in charities that deal with mental health, physical health, money problems and crime, and the work here touches on all of that.

When someone has a resolution, when somebody's found safe and well, that's a massive relief for us. Equally, when someone is found dead that's horrendous, but at least they have some form of certainty, even if it's not what they wanted to know.

The most challenging thing is when someone's had a person missing for years. As the years go by the pain and the worry don't change. Sometimes it can gets worse for people, not knowing what's happened to their loved ones.

It's a hard thing to know that you can't make the pain go away. Whatever difference we're making, it isn't the fundamental difference they want - to make their person come back.

We have to be emotionally resilient and recognise that we are helping by standing with them through that uncertainty when nobody else is - people will start telling them to move on and stop worrying, their person isn't coming back or that they will if they want to.

So what I've learned is that if I can't make it better, I can make it manageable. That's the ethos of the charity.

Missing People helps in the search for people who have gone missing and provides support for them and their families

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