Lianne Hawxwell is Head of Learning and Development at Shout. Her role is to ensure that Shout Volunteers have the ongoing skills and knowledge they need to support people who text the service via access to our online learning and development community. In this blog, Lianne explains how we support our volunteers and ultimately our texters, through a ‘listening and learning’ approach to our training.
At Shout, volunteer learning and development starts from the moment someone is accepted onto Shout Volunteer training. Our online model means that people can complete their volunteer training in their own time, choosing a starting date that works for them.
A dedicated team supports trainees, answering questions, giving feedback and running optional live learning sessions to help drive a sense of community in a digital environment. Developing meaningful connections sits at the heart of what we do at Shout and this is a common thread that runs through both our support for both volunteers and texters.
We also use a recently developed conversation simulator to give a safe space to practise conversations with an AI texter. Volunteers who are yet to take their first conversation, or those who have had some time away and want to refresh their skills, can use the simulator to have a real-time conversation, as if they were speaking to someone in crisis. We then give trainees feedback on what went well and where they can develop further.
Ongoing learning and development
Learning and development doesn’t stop once a volunteer graduates from our core volunteer training. We continue to work with Shout Volunteers to develop their skills and knowledge using a mixture of podcasts, live learning sessions, online courses and written content to give volunteers a range of options for learning. Ultimately, we are working to increase their confidence and improve the experience for people who text us; the better equipped our volunteers feel, the better the support they can provide for the texter in the moment.
The Shout Volunteer training includes learning opportunities such as:
- Effectively supporting texters at risk of harm
- Connecting with a texter to show warmth through messages
- Exploring a texter's current issue, whether that be suicidal thoughts and ideation, all the way through to relationship problems, loneliness or bullying
- Webinars and podcasts with researchers and experts in the field on relevant topics such as loneliness, trauma informed care and addiction
- Accredited Safeguarding training for all volunteers with a focus on children, adults and children with disabilities.
- Access to a CPD accredited learning library so that volunteers can boost their own learning in the direction that interests them.
We focus on the skills and knowledge so that volunteers can develop their voice as they gain more volunteer experience.The overwhelming majority of Shout Volunteers (92%) tell us that training and learning is an ongoing process for them, 86% of volunteers agree that they have opportunities to keep developing their skills and 84% of volunteers say they can use self-reflection to guide their growth.
Ongoing training and development has inherent benefits for volunteers. In our most recent Shout Volunteer survey, 85% of Shout Volunteers feel they have gained mental health knowledge and skills that they can use in their lives beyond Shout, 84% said the role provided them with a sense of accomplishment, 68% said it gave them a greater sense of purpose in life and one in five said it made them feel less anxious in their lives.
I really like that we are given extensive training, and the effort in training is really clear when we complete a conversation. I would say the training is the best kind of training I have ever been a part of, as it is well thought out, interactive for the users and really easy to use on the platform.
Our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life. Some are people who are interested in a career in mental health, while others are looking for a way to give back to their community and have no experience in mental health. Some are people who have used the service themselves in the past and want to give back to others once they feel resilient enough to do so. We aim to support anyone who would like to volunteer with us - no matter their background or level of experience in mental health.
If supporting others while having the chance to be part of an empathetic community and develop your skill set sounds like an opportunity you’d like to experience, find out more about becoming a Shout Volunteer.