While Second Life is best known as an open-ended virtual world where people can do and be whoever (or whatever) they wish, socialize, and play games, it also has a more serious side (an example of this is the Survivors of Suicide support group).
I have been honest and up-front about my lifelong battles with clinical depression on this blog (and how I believe virtual reality helped me recover from a serious bout of depression). And I’m doing my small part to help fight the negative societal stigma against mental health problems, by sharing my personal story. If doing so helps one other person who may be struggling (and believe me, during this coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people are struggling), then it’s worth it.
Over the past four months, on the recommendation of a friend I had made in the social VR/virtual worlds community whose judgement I trust, I have been having weekly hour-long sessions with Kira (her full avatar name is KiraListens Resident), who is a professional active listener and peer support specialist, and who also has past experience as a crisis hotline volunteer. We meet in my private Linden Home in Second Life, using voice chat (I have set my parcel so that nobody can listen in from outside, and restricted access to me, my various alts, and Kira, to ensure that we have privacy.)
PLEASE NOTE: KiraListens offers a professional active listening service. THIS IS *NOT* A ROLE-PLAY SERVICE, AND IT IS MOST CERTAINLY *NOT* A SEXUAL ROLE-PLAY SERVICE. It is intended for people who may need someone to talk to about their real-life issues in a confidential, uninterrupted, judgement-free setting.
I look at these weekly sessions as an additional tool in my fight against against my chronic clinical depression (in addition to biweekly talk therapy with the psychiatrist who prescribes my antidepressant medication). Kira is a empathetic, active listener and sounding board, to whom I can talk about anything that happened that week in real life, and bring up any problems, issues, or feelings I am currently dealing with.
On her website, KiraListens.com, Kira provides information on her background and experience:
I grew up being the friend people called when they needed to talk.
While in college, I volunteered at a crisis hotline for youth. It was such an amazing experience and set the stage for what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve also needed support from friends, counselors, and other listeners and can vouch for its effectiveness.
In 2018, I became a Certified Peer Support Specialist. While I’m not currently acting as a PSS, my certification is up to date. As a PSS, I provided trauma informed care, active/reflective listening, emotional processing, and practice with coping skills. Working with individuals on a personal level brings me happiness. It feels right, even on the rough days.
In a listening session, you will receive judgment-free emotional support and positive regard. This is an hour dedicated to you in which you can talk about anything you need to. Everything you share is confidential.
Sessions with Kira Listens provide you with a choice. Because sessions are virtual, you don’t have to leave your home or office. You can also choose the mode of communication that works best for you. I offer sessions through IM, voice calls, and video chat.
Her SL profile states:
I’m here to get to know people and offer a listening service. A listening service is like therapy and should feel like talking to a good friend. It provides confidential, judgment-free, active listening and emotional support. IM me for more info.
To get a discount for yourself or a gift for your friends, check out my gift certificates here: http://kiralistens.com/gc/
Not looking for romantic or sexual relationships, but always open to friendship and conversation.
Active listening means giving your full attention and listening with all your senses.
Active listening is:
■ A consicous act
■ Without judgment
■ Something we all need
■ Something you will find here
Why talk to me?
■ No fear of judgments or repercussions
■ You’re in control.
■ You decide how you want to communicate.
■ It’s your time, uninterrupted.
Kira also spells out the terms and conditions of her professional listening service. This is not, by any means, a role-play experience, and it is most certainly not sexual role-play!
This service is not a substitute for licensed practitioners. It does not replace care from a clinical mental health professional or therapist. It is not a crisis intervention service. Under some circumstances, callers will be advised to end a session and call their local police or emergency number. Circumstances include:
■ Threats towards another person or yourself
■ Mental health crises
Lastly, if a caller is rude or threatening, the call will be ended. Refunds are not available in these cases. However, if I am unable to make it to a scheduled session, you will receive notice ASAP and a full refund. If you need to cancel your session, please let me know as soon as you can. Sessions canceled short notice (less than 24 hours in advance) are not eligible for refunds.
Kira has now decided to hang up her shingle and offer her services in Second Life, to test the waters. Having been Kira’s client for several months, I can vouch for her. She’s the real deal.
I have found this service to be helpful to me as I endeavour to work from home for my university library system, in self-isolation in my apartment during the coronavirus pandemic, scrupulously practicing social distancing in order to stay healthy. My underlying health conditions (obesity, hypertension, asthma, and type II diabetes, which, of course, are all interrelated) put me at much higher risk for a severe, possibly even fatal, case of COVID-19 if I should become infected with this novel coronavirus. This makes Second Life the perfect venue for Kira’s service, as I do not have to leave my apartment to talk with her. All I have to do is log into SL.
And, as a bonus, I can also talk with Kira about my (mis)adventures in social VR and virtual worlds as part of my real life experience, without having to spend half an hour providing background and context! I talk about things that have happened as a result of a blogpost I have written, for example, or a conflict I might have with someone on my own (or somebody else’s) Discord server. Kira gets it, because she has some experience with virtual worlds herself, as well as her background and experience as an active listener, a crisis hotline volunteer, and a certified peer support specialist.
In our weekly discussions, Kira and I have also talked a bit about the rich and vibrant culture of Second Life, informed by my fourteen years of experiences on the platform (what I jokingly call “my Ph.D. in Virtual Worlds from the University of Second Life”). And, of course, we have talked about real life versus Second Life, what it means to have an avatar, and how some people choose to hide behind that avatar representation, and use SL exclusively as a fantasy, role-play experience (hence my red-box warning above). I repeat, THIS IS NOT A ROLE-PLAY SERVICE.
For more information about this new service, you can contact KiraListens Resident in-world, or send her an email at KiraListens [at] gmail [dot] com, or visit her website, KiraListens.com. You can also join Kira’s new Discord community.