Steve, from Brighton, is one of our newest volunteers. Here, he shares how volunteering for Shout is helping him to develop skills that support his own mental health, his role as a mental health advocate at work and his training to become a counsellor.
Shout is a service I used in the past when I was going through a time of crisis. I have always remembered how kind and empathic the person I spoke to was and always felt it was something I would like to do myself.
What made you decide to become a Shout Volunteer?
The subject of mental health is one of great importance to me after spending a number of years battling my own diagnoses. I would probably not be here now if it were not for the help of others. I know what it’s like to be in crisis and needing to reach out.
I know what reaching out for help feels like and how hard it can be to do.
Being a Shout Volunteer enables me to provide the support that was so important to me in my recovery. I know what reaching out for help feels like and how hard it can be to do, so being in a position where I can provide help to someone in going through such difficult situations is rewarding.
Volunteering for Shout also gives me the opportunity to develop my skills while I complete my training to become a counsellor.
What do you find most rewarding about being a Shout Volunteer?
The anonymous feedback from texters is by far the most rewarding part of volunteering for Shout. I have been taken aback by some of the amazing feedback I’ve received from both texters and my supervisors.
When someone texts Shout, they’re in crisis and at a point where they need to talk. To be able to spend time with them, talking through their issues and then realising at the end of the conversation that the texter has really got to a better place, is incredibly rewarding.
It is hard to put into words the feeling that I get when reading anonymous texter feedback, or that last message in a conversation that thanks you for your time and tells you they can’t explain how much you have helped them.
It is truly a privilege to be in a position where you can provide support to help someone move forward with their life, while providing them with the resources required to help them in the future.
What are some of the challenges you've experienced?
The biggest challenge is coming to terms with the fact that you can’t provide help and support to everyone. It’s hard not to be disappointed when a texter closes down the conversation halfway through. You feel like you might have done something wrong, but it could just be that they were not ready to talk at that point, or someone had walked into the room and they were not able to speak with you. It took me a while to get used to that, but your fellow volunteers and supervisors are excellent and help you with those moments.
Have you been able to use any of the skills you've developed as a Shout Volunteer in your day-to-day life?
Most definitely. The one major thing I’ve realised is that you can never judge what a person is feeling or going through. It’s important to treat everyone with empathy and care because you don’t know what a person might be going through. I also have a better understanding of my own life as well. Volunteering has helped me develop my skills with regards to managing my own mental health.
Finally, I have gained valuable skills that help in my role as a manager for the police service. I work as a mental health advocate within the force and the training Shout provides is particularly helpful when supporting team members who are going through difficult times in their life.
Would you recommend becoming a Shout Volunteer?
Definitely. We only ask for a minimum of two hours each week, and this can be any time of the day or night, so you can really fit in volunteering to suit your lifestyle.
The skills and training you get are invaluable, as is the experience of helping texters go from a state of distress to a calmer moment.