The following are real stories - the first written by a user of the Samaritan service, the second by a volunteer, and the third by a trustee of the Reading Samaritans branch.
A service user's story
I always thought you had to be thinking of ending your life to call the Samaritans. I’m glad to say that’s not the case.
My life was otherwise happy, stable, and I really had nothing to complain about. Something happened, however, that meant I felt incredibly alone and drowning in negative emotions – panic and anxiety ruled my days. I couldn’t sleep or eat, and felt that I couldn’t turn to anyone for help. I was quite desperate.
I called the Samaritans. More than once. Talking to someone who listened without judgement, who took their time with me, immediately soothed and calmed me. It wasn’t a solution to my problems, but it was a shining light at a time where I felt like life was overwhelming. Just knowing they were there, warm and human and ready to listen, made a difference.
They listened to my worries, my anxieties, my panic – rational or not. They let me cry and talk and gently listened. I could feel the compassion coming down the phone.
The Samaritans aren’t just there if you’ve come right to the end. They are there for those nights where you feel like the only person awake in the world at 3am, or the days where you can’t concentrate at work because of nagging worries in your head. For when you feel like there’s no-one else.
I’ve not called them in a while. But I know they’re there, and that in itself helps me.
A volunteer's story
I’ve been a listening volunteer with the Samaritans for two and a half years. I decided to join after I lost my Dad to suicide in 2010, which came as a huge shock to my family. One thing we found out after he died was that he had seen his doctor to talk about his mental health, and had been advised to call the Samaritans. Sadly, he never made that call.
When I felt strong enough, I decided that I wanted to be the person on the end of the line, there for someone else – someone who may have been suffering like my Dad was.
I learnt so much through the training – it was so thorough, and covered aspects of life I hadn’t even thought about. It made me look at things differently, like I was looking at things through a different lens.
I now volunteer between three and four and a half hours a week, including evenings, weekends, and night shifts. I’m able to take my pick, and make the shifts work around my life’s commitments. It’s been really lovely to meet the other volunteers, too.
I love being there for people, and recognise the power of talking things through and having someone listen to you with no judgement.
My training and experience as a volunteer has taught me a lot about mental health, meaning I’m able to help people who might be feeling like my Dad did. Knowing that I can help them in their hour of need makes everything worthwhile.
I am incredibly proud to be a Samaritan.
A trustee's story
I became a Samaritans trustee for many reasons – but largely because I believe in their aim, and have known many people who were helped by them.
I wanted to support a charitable cause, but it was also a great opportunity to learn and develop new skills I’d not picked up during my professional career.
You might ask what a trustee does. It covers all kinds of ground – from maintaining the overall governance of the Reading branch by collaborating with other trustees and deputy directors, to preparing the annual report. That’s a particularly important one, as it covers our submission to the Charities Commission which outlines all that we do.
It’s been a steep learning curve, and I’ve learnt so much about Reading Samaritans and the wider charitable sector through volunteering as a trustee. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that everyone here makes a difference.