The Samaritans

I went to an introductory evening at the Samaritans last night in what I hope is the beginning of the process of becoming a volunteer, encouraged by a friend who already gives time to them.

The more I find out about this organisation the more I realise what an extraordinary range of vital services it offers, not just for those experiencing emotional distress but also as a resource for those concerned about someone they know in such a situation as well as its training, campaigning and de-stigmatising roles.

I was anxious before I left. Worried, I think, about my ability to be with others’ emotional pain. Am I strong enough? Feeling defensive. How much information about myself and my experiences might I be required to reveal? Of course the answer to that is just as much as I am comfortable with. And the event was fascinating. Seven people of various ages and backgrounds with widely differing reasons for wanting to give time. Two volunteers to guide us through an informative video and discussion afterwards.

It’s a path I want very much to pursue. The aim of enabling an entirely non-judgemental space – through active listening – in which it may be possible for individuals to be empowered to discover the resources to take control of their lives is very exciting.

The next step is a three hour (gulp!) individual assessment to judge suitability for training. The volunteer training course, which lasts a number of weeks, is apparently very resource intensive (the Samaritans is a charity, of course) and it’s important to screen candidates carefully. It’s quite common for volunteers to have a background of having experienced mental distress or suicidal feelings so if I’m not ready for it yet I’m sure that will become clear at the assessment session.