Written by our stellar Helpline volunteer, Rachel
I have always been struck by how powerful a single, brief human connection can be. I wanted to become comfortable creating spaces where others felt heard. It was important to me to find a place where I could listen to others for a long time. While I could not imagine a life without listening, I remember feeling really nervous about volunteering at Samaritans. I had never done this type of volunteer work before. I believed then (and still believe now) that anyone with the desire to listen has the capability to learn, but my greatest fear was that I would struggle too much emotionally while I tried to support others from the phone room.
However, the atmosphere in the Samaritans phone room is very different from what I expected! There is truly a sense that all the volunteers and staff are in this together, to both support callers and each other after calls. Everyone takes every call thoughtfully and seriously. My training with more experienced volunteers showed me that it was possible to listen while being simultaneously compassionate, firm, empathetic, and composed, no matter the situation.
My primary motivation to listen began as a belief in the power of human connections. Over time, I found moments that helped keep me focused after tough shifts. There have been many, many of these moments. They remind me every week why I decided to join and continue being in the Samaritans community as a volunteer.
I distinctly remember the callers and texters who are not sure what to say but still reach out bravely for the first time. I think a lot about the people who struggled to support their suicidal loved one but desperately wanted to help them. I cannot forget about the people who have lost hope in their own lives but wish they could still hope for a better future someday. There are so many of these stories, among others, and every time that a caller feels comfortable enough to share a bit of their feelings seems like a privilege to me.
These motivating moments at Samaritans are not limited to my experiences with callers and texters. As a current mentor, I have seen my former trainees gain so much confidence after every call they take, my shiftmates respond calmly and nonjudgmentally to texters in crisis, and the volunteers I supervise return week after week with determination. I still get a burst of energy while teaching new volunteers, who remind me of where I was when I first began, eager to start my first shift but uncertain how it would go.
I know that I will carry these memories of Samaritans forever. Volunteering helped me realize that I am stronger and more capable of supporting others through listening than I could have ever imagined. Although volunteering at Samaritans can be difficult at times, I hold the stories I have heard close to my heart when I walk into the phone room for my shift, greet any trainees, and prepare myself to listen with a warm tone and an open mind.
We are so grateful to Rachel for her dedication and service to people in need. If you’re interested in volunteering at Samaritans, visit our Volunteering page to learn more and complete the Volunteer Inquiry Form.