On World Mental Health Day I’m delighted to talk about my experience with one of my favourite organisations, Samaritans.
I was privileged to be a Samaritans volunteer in 2017/2018. I went through the comprehensive training at the New Cross branch full of anticipation (I wanted to help people) and nerves (I have to speak to real people!)
I’ll never forget the first call I took as a trainee. My mentor sat beside me, listening in, occasionally scribbling a question for me to ask. I think I did ok.
That was the first of many calls, texts and emails with people in distress.
I found out how powerful listening can be – I mean the sort of active, engaged listening Samaritans are trained in, listening that is welcoming, non-judgmental, and open, encouraging the caller to speak. I learned that silence can be very effective, as the caller fills the silence by speaking. And sometimes there was silence on the other end of the line, and that was fine; I would reassure the caller that for however long they wanted they were all I was concentrating on and that I was there for them.
It was wonderful to hear the change in a caller’s voice from the start to the end of a call. You can sense anguish and suffering decrease through the simple act of talking over problems and (crucially) being taken seriously, being heard.
Samaritans carry out an essential function in our society, as for many they are the mental health first responder service.
One day I’ll go back to being a Samaritan.
Today however – World Mental Health day – I want to thank and applaud Samaritans for the essential service they provide.
Written by Ross Penney, CEO at AVC Immedia.