Myths about volunteering: there’s a ‘type’ of person who volunteers

Who can be a Samaritans volunteer?
Saturday 16th July 2016
Wikipedia quickly informs me that a myth is a ‘widely held, but false belief or idea’ – something which many of us may think or believe, and yet when tested empirically turns out to be either misplaced or false. Our lives are full of myths: some hearten us, some mislead us.


So, when it comes to Samaritans, is there a particular type of person who chooses to volunteer with us?

I suppose one could generalise and say things like: ‘they can’t be judgmental; they must be the kind of person who can empathise with others; they need to be able to listen.'  Whilst all these comments are valid in general,  these traits come all wrapped up in many different people.
At Coventry branch, 77% of our volunteers are female. I would suggest that this would follow a similar pattern in the majority of branches across the country. Despite the fact that the vast majority of suicides in the UK are male, it is women who seem to volunteer first and foremost.  But as a guy who is one of the 23%, I would encourage other guys to consider joining me.

What then of volunteer ages?

Considering the age of volunteers it would be easy to assume that the vast majority of them would be middle aged or retired.  In my short time at Coventry branch I have quickly realised that age is not a factor in volunteering: our youngest volunteer has just turned 20, our eldest in their 80s.  I have shared shifts with people both who are retired and who work; some are at university, others own their own companies; some have always been local, others have travelled the world extensively.  Those that work often have to book a particular shift because they do not have the freedom to choose widely due to the nature of their work. Some live around the corner, walking to a shift whilst others arrive in their cars having travelled for some time. 

Famous Samaritans volunteers.

In addition, Samaritans has also had its fair share of well-known celebrities: RadioHead’s drummer Phil Selway is a former Samaritan who combined playing in the very famous band and then offering time to the Samaritans when, not on tour. We all are surely all familiar too with Barry Simmonds from ‘Egghheads’ who has combined quizzing on BBC with being a Samaritan listener. 

The thing we all have in common.

Whilst I do not have the statistics at my fingertips of gender, marital status, age, work status, skillsets, I think there is something already that clearly stands out as a ‘fact’ for me as a new Samaritan volunteer: The people who volunteer to become Samaritans do so because they want to. Their initial respective reasons for volunteering may vary greatly,  but at the core is that desire to ‘give’  a troubled person some much valued time in the hope, that it may help them in some small way.

Dispel some more of the myths you might hold about volunteering with us:



You could be our type too - why not come along to our next Info Session to find out more?