This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating two of our incredible volunteers who are providing crucial support to people who are struggling to cope.
Karen, 59, began volunteering for Shout at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020. She’s dedicated 339 hours of her time and has taken an amazing 469 conversations with children, young people and adults who were in mental health crisis. Her daughter Tiffany, 30, also joined Shout earlier this year, having been inspired by her mother’s compassion and understanding for the need for mental health support, particularly among young people.
Both mother and daughter have found comfort in being able to share their experiences with one another, bonding over their volunteer journeys and providing crucial support to the people who have texted Shout.
We have both learnt a lot on the journey with Shout – becoming more informed, less judgemental, more empathetic and our understanding of many mental health issues has increased.
Karen - what made you become a Shout Volunteer and how did you end up introducing Tiffany to the service?
I saw a programme on TV where the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge talked about Shout and what it did. I liked the sound of it and could see the need and value. It was also attractive because of the flexible approach to volunteering, as I travel a lot.
Tiffany was always interested in what I did with Shout, and I often talked to her about it. She was recently looking for volunteering opportunities but had restrictions as she works full-time and found it hard to make the sort of commitment that many organisations require. She explored some, but in the end Shout seemed perfect for her.
She was initially worried that she would find the Shout conversations too upsetting. However, I reassured her that, with the training Shout provides, the support on the platform from Clinical Supervisors and being two steps removed from the texter helps give you the space required to not get too emotionally involved.
Tiffany - did you notice any differences in your mum when she started volunteering? What inspired you to want to become a volunteer yourself?
I was really proud of mum, especially when she received great texter feedback and took multiple conversations. I noticed that she became even more compassionate and understanding about the types of issues that other people, especially young people, might be facing.
I was inspired to volunteer myself, because I could see the impact she was able to have, and I felt that I would hopefully be able to make a difference to some of the people I would end up engaging with.Shout Volunteer Tiffany
Do you find having each other as volunteers has been supportive?
Both: Yes, we do. We can glean ideas, approaches, useful language/phrases and perspectives from each other, although it’s early days for this we’d like to do more as it’s so beneficial having the support of other volunteers. Also, it’s always nice to discuss your experiences of volunteering with someone who understands what you are talking about, and bounce ideas and learnings off each other!
Karen: We have not actually been on the platform at the same time as we both have busy schedules so it’s not always that easy - we need to plan this! When Tiffany took her first two conversations however, I felt I was able to offer support to her in the run up and provide comfort for any first-shift nerves. I think it’s also useful that initially a volunteer establishes themselves and finds their own voice before too much input from someone else. Maybe then they have the bandwidth and understanding to know what can help others in their conversations too.
What do you enjoy about being a Shout Volunteer?
Both: We both enjoy the fact that we are helping someone in crisis. Often the conversations or feedback we receive from people we’ve supported endorse that. We also enjoy the variety of the texters and the issues they contact Shout about.
We have both learnt a lot on the journey with Shout – becoming more informed, less judgemental, more empathetic and our understanding of many mental health issues has increased. The flexibility and autonomy that the role provides are particularly important.
Shout also allows the ability to give something of yourself to the texter. We are not reading or following a script, but genuinely engaging with the texter and responding accordingly. It makes the experience challenging and stimulating; it also feels important. These are people’s lives that we feel we are helping in a small way, sometimes a significant way.
What do you think of the support you get when volunteering?
Karen: I thought the initial training was excellent. I was very early in the process, and I believe it has evolved further and is even better as time has gone on. The coaches are always there for me when needed, but not overbearing. They are supportive, understanding, well-informed and are great mentors.
Tiffany: My training experience was excellent – very well structured, educational and explicitly relevant, and gave me a lot of confidence in how to approach taking conversations as a new volunteer. I have had a brilliant experience with all of the Clinical Supervisors, who are always on hand to reassure and advise if asked.
We are excited to learn more from each other as we continue on this journey.
We urgently need more volunteers to help take life-saving conversations. Could you join our supportive community? Find out more below.