Having first turned to Shout for help when she felt isolated during lockdown, Emily was left with a desire to support people experiencing similar emotions and thoughts.
I wanted to be the other person. I finally took the plunge to apply to be a volunteer.
Now six months into her volunteering journey, Emily shares what it’s like to be a Shout Volunteer, what she finds most rewarding and what she’s learnt along the way.
Why did you want to become a Shout Volunteer?
I used Shout several times during the 2020 lockdowns. I struggled enormously with isolation and having too much time to think about things, which would often lead me into a downward spiral.
Each time I texted Shout, I was treated with warmth and empathy and wasn’t judged for the way I was feeling at the time. They also shared helpful links with me.
It gave me a real desire to support people feeling a similar way - I wanted to be the other person. I finally took the plunge to apply to be a volunteer after working in a secondary school for a year, which gave me an understanding of some of the mental health challenges children and teenagers are experiencing.
I completed my training at the end of August 2021.
How does volunteering fit into your everyday life?
I applied to be a volunteer because I’ve always wanted to support people with their mental health but, as an introvert, talking to someone on the phone causes me a lot of anxiety. As a text service, Shout is ideal for me to offer my time to.
The flexibility of being able to book shifts around my day job as an EAL teacher is perfect for me and I’ve logged on early in the morning, mid-afternoon and in the evening.
What do you enjoy the most?
The feeling I get when I’ve helped a texter gradually move from a hot moment of crisis to a moment of cool calm. Of course, it’s not always as simple as that.
Logging on to the platform before each shift, not knowing what I’ll experience for the next two or three hours, is exciting in a sense. It’s like teaching, where no two days (or even two lessons!) are the same. Similar to getting to know the students that I teach, getting to know every texter I have a conversation with is really important in helping them feel listened to and heard as an individual.
Has anything surprised you?
Something which amazes me but simultaneously breaks my heart is the age of some of those texting in. I’ve supported texters as young as 12-years-old. I teach secondary school-aged students and this hits home about how much children and teenagers struggle with their mental health. At the same time, I feel honoured to be able to be there for them when they’re at a low point.
What have you found challenging?
Sometimes, it can feel disheartening when a texter stops responding, however, I’ve found it useful to bear in mind that I don’t know exactly what situation that person may be in when they are talking to me. We get to see anonymous feedback and reading positive messages from texters I’ve supported fills me with pride.
Has being a Shout Volunteer benefitted other areas of your life?
I’ve learnt a lot about myself - that I’m resilient and adaptable, able to change my approach to each individual I support. I’ve developed skills that I never knew I had - I can help empower texters to take control of their situation through active listening, kind words and empathy.
I’ve also developed an understanding that it doesn’t matter if I can only give an hour or two hours a week of my time on the platform. I’ve still used those hours to help people and it’s important to take time for myself to do something which makes me happy or relaxes me.
I would recommend becoming a Shout Volunteer. In an hour or two a week, you can give so much to texters who desperately need support.
Find out more about becoming a Shout Volunteer today.