Advice from a Shout Volunteer and team member who has taken 10,000 conversations
One of our longest serving Shout Volunteers, who is now part of the Shout staff team, recently hit the huge milestone of taking 10,000 conversations with texters in distress.
We spoke to her to find out how she got there and to gain some insight into what she’s experienced along the way.
For confidentiality reasons, she has remained anonymous.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I work at Shout as a Coach, supporting volunteers through their journey with us. I have also been a Shout Volunteer myself since October 2019. In addition, I'm currently studying to be a counsellor.
How did your journey with Shout begin?
I remember hearing about it on the radio. There was a call out for volunteers and I had been looking for somewhere to volunteer and thought, ‘Oh yeah, that sums me up perfectly.’ And so I applied, went through the training and started off doing regular shifts on a Tuesday when I had my day off from work.
Then in lockdown I had a bit more time. So that's when I started doing night shifts on the platform. I was a bit scared to do it but a volunteer who regularly did night shifts said they'd do one with me. And since then I have never looked back.
Can you tell us more about what it’s like to support late night texters?
There is often a high demand at night time, so I really wanted to help out then, when you can make a big difference.
I was a little worried about having a lot of conversations with people who were at high risk and not being able to handle it. But once I got on there and I had the support of the Supervisors and other volunteers to reach out to, there was such a nice team spirit.
You all want to help the texters. And no matter what happens, you've got the training, you know how to handle it. And your Supervisor is always there if you need them.
How did you go from being a volunteer to a Shout staff member?
That was just after the lockdown. I'd been doing night shifts about three times a week on the platform, really getting into it. I had made such good relationships with our New Zealand team Supervisors on the night shifts and had early morning chats with the UK Supervisors as well.
Then I saw the roll-out of trials for a Grading Assistant and I applied for that and got it, which I was absolutely thrilled about. I had been wanting to be a part of the Shout team for ages.
The role was in the training team, helping to get volunteers through their training, grading their assignments and supporting volunteers who were coming back to the platform to take refresher activities.
Later, a role opened up for a Coach. I applied and got that too, which was so exciting because, when I was a volunteer at the beginning, I had an amazing Coach and we had such a good relationship. I reached out to her when I needed support and I was just really thrilled to have the chance to support other volunteers in the way I had been supported, using my experience of knowing what it’s like to be on the platform, facing some tense situations and the range of emotions that can come up.
I really wanted to support our volunteers and try to encourage them in their journeys.
What advice would you give new volunteers for sustaining such a long commitment to volunteering?
Something that really helped me was building relationships with other volunteers and with my Coach.
I definitely felt more involved when I took regular shifts and I started connecting with more people - whether in the group chat or DMing people to say hi if they’re on their first shift. Just start a conversation. Look at a volunteer’s profile and, if you see something interesting, leave them a comment about it. I've even had people talk to me about things like peanut butter - it always seems to be snack related things!
It’s nice to connect with people you have a lot in common with - you're here to help people, you're empathetic, you're caring. And on night shifts, messaging the Supervisors has really helped as well. The friendships that you build with people, even though it's so remote, is what keeps me coming back.
I think self-care is also really important, especially with the night shift. Normally mine's watching YouTube and then going to sleep for a bit. But it's definitely important to take breaks. I think at the beginning, you can be so keen to do lots, so it's important to recognise the need to pace yourself a bit.
Don't throw yourself in too much at the beginning, there's plenty of time. There are always going to be people who need support.
We urgently need more volunteers. If you think you could be a Shout Volunteer, please apply today.