How volunteering with the Samaritans changes lives.
VOW’s Head of Commercial, Becky Shelton’s job is not without challenges, but being keen to learn new skills and to make a difference in her community led her to a new challenge that has been truly life changing.
Becky explains, “I had a couple of significant conversations, one with a homeless guy and one with a friend who had lost someone to suicide. I realised that just by being there to listen and not trying to offer solutions, I was helping people. A little while later a random newspaper article pointed me in the direction of the Samaritans, and I was hooked!”
Becky now spends 3-4 hours a week as a Listening Volunteer in her local branch, taking phone calls and answering emails or texts from people in emotional crisis or despair. They come from people from all types of backgrounds and all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, employed and unemployed, all united by their need to talk to someone about their problems.
Some are suicidal, others have long term mental health problems, are in crisis over debt, relationships, school or work pressures. Whatever their situation, all are treated with kindness and consideration, in a non-judgmental way.
Callers to the Samaritans are often confused or distressed, isolated and in desperate need of someone to talk to. Becky explains, “We respect that someone might want to end their life, and if that is the case, we help them to fully understand their reasoning and thoughts. We never offer advice, but through gentle, open questions, we help the caller to order their thoughts and hopefully to see a way forward. Our aim is that, through talking about their deepest feelings they may feel they can carry on with life. And, of course everything we hear is confidential to Samaritans so we can’t talk about it outside of the branch.”
“Helping people who have found themselves in despair is tremendously rewarding, knowing that you could have made the difference to someone who was considering taking their own life is very emotional. Just to be trusted by people who will reveal their deepest and darkest thoughts is an amazing privilege.”
As well as being a Listening Volunteer, Becky is part of her branch fundraising and outreach team, which involves applying for grant funding, supporting community projects and even standing in Asda on a Saturday morning handing out information. She says that the organisation is desperate for support volunteers to help with fundraising, outreach, school liaison, training, recruitment, administration, IT and even odd jobs, as well as for listening positions.
Full training is provided to Listening Volunteers who go through a selection process, intensive induction training and 6-8 months of pairing with a mentor, with ongoing training afterwards.
If you think you could help, please have a look at the Samaritans website.
If you are struggling, Becky suggests that the best thing you can do is to talk to someone. If your workplace has Mental Health First Aiders then try them, or a trusted family member or friend. If you feel that you don’t want to burden someone you know, so please call Samaritans on 116123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are worried about someone you know, then the Samaritans website has lots of information to help you approach them in a supportive way. Knowing that someone cares enough to listen can make an enormous difference to people who are struggling.
Becky concludes, “It feels a bit strange still to say that I love being a Samaritan, but it’s one of the biggest achievements in my life, and I’m very proud to say that I am really making a difference for some people. I would definitely encourage others to volunteer too.”