Andy’s a good Samaritan!
World Mental Health Day is marked annually on 10th October. In what has been a tough year for many, mental health support is more valuable than ever, and relies in no small part on dedicated volunteers. Andy Manning, our Logistics Director, has been volunteering as a Samaritans Listener for almost two years. We chatted to him about his experience.
Andy said, “I lost my mother two and a half years ago, and it left me with a feeling that I wanted to be a real benefit to society; I wanted to give something back. I looked around at lots of different charities I might be able to get involved with, but I kept coming back to the Samaritans. It is a charity close to my heart.”
“The training programme is quite rigorous – you do 10 weeks classroom training where you explore mental health and suicide. Not everyone who calls the Samaritans is suicidal – a lot of people are just dealing with mental health issues… but you have to learn how to talk openly about suicide. One of the toughest things about the training was the role-play where we had to ask someone if they’re thinking of committing suicide. It was a hard thing to get to grips with, although after 18 months it rolls off the tongue.
“After the classroom training ends, you’re set up in a mentor programme for a few weeks. There aren’t really any big call centres, so for example, I work out of a small converted house. There are about 200 of these centres across the country, and between 200-250 listeners working at any given time. I work at least one four hour shift a week, and at least one eight hour night shift a month. There are busier periods though – Christmas and New year, for example, are a really demanding time for the service.
“The Samaritans are exceptionally busy at the moment. It’s been harder for people to access the mental health system in traditional ways so the Samaritans becomes a viable alternative for some people. There has been a spike with relationship issues – like if people are trapped in a small property with an abuser – and also in loneliness for people that can’t get out the house.
“The Samaritans doesn’t offer opinions or advice, we just listen and signpost. It’s totally anonymous – you don’t know who the caller is, and they don’t know who you are.
“I wanted to do more than throw some money at a charity – anyone can set up a direct debit. I wanted to dedicate my time, because that personally is my most valuable resource.”
The Samaritans can be a vital lifeline to anyone who is struggling with their mental health and needs someone to talk to. If you’d like to speak to one of their dedicated Listeners, you can do so by calling 116 123.
You can learn more about the Samaritans at https://www.samaritans.org/