Volunteer, Laura, tells the inside story of Samaritans on Radio 4

Samaritans volunteer Laura Rutherford has revealed how she deals with the emotional challenge of volunteering for the suicide prevention charity in BBC Radio 4’s One To One series.

The programme was one of three looking at emotionally demanding work. Presenter Julia Bradbury also heard from a surgeon dealing with life and death in A&E and a psychiatrist working in a mental health in-patient unit for teenagers.

Laura, who also has a pressurised job as a solicitor, joined Samaritans seven years ago, after moving to a new area and wanting to do something rewarding and meet new people. She chose Samaritans after seeing friends dealing with the trauma of bereavement by suicide in their families.

“I wanted to make sure I was doing something worthwhile and helping people who are having suicidal feelings. The training is really good and because we get such a wide variety of calls and issues to deal with you have to be sure that when you pick up the phone for the first time as a listener that you’re ready and equipped to deal with whatever the person throws at you.”

Laura talked about the peer support for volunteers who may need to unload after dealing with a particularly difficult call.

“Because we’re confidential, you can’t just go home and tell your family or friends about it, so you can ring an experienced volunteer if you need to. They might phone you or text you or send you an email the next day. Nine times out of ten you’ll say you haven’t thought about it, you got if off your chest when you spoke to them last night, but they’re still there if you need them. It’s really important to be mindful of yourself too and your own wellbeing, and if you need time off taking calls you can take it.”

In a compelling listen, that ranges from humorous insights to powerfully moving accounts of her experiences, Laura, who as a volunteer is also Director of Samaritan’s Carlisle Branch, recalls how she felt supporting one suicidal caller in particular, whom she believes did go on to take their own life.

"As Samaritans we get better at dealing with the difficult life stories and things that we hear. On a call I don’t give anything away of myself apart from my voice, and that protects you in a way. But I don’t ever want to get totally desensitised. It’s a balance. I don’t want to get too upset but I still want to be human in my response to people.

“Julia’s questions were thoughtful and sensitive and, while it was important to be true to what we do and acknowledge the distress that we often deal with, overall I was determined to get across how rewarding an experience volunteering can be,” Laura added.

You can listen to Laura Rutherford interviewed by Julia Bradbury on BBC Radio 4 One To One here and find out more about volunteering for Samaritans here.

Whatever you’re going through, anyone can call Samaritans for free from any phone any time on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.

For further information, photos and interviews, please contact Samaritans’ press office on 020 8394 8300 or press@samaritans.org.

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Notes to editors:

  • It’s the public’s kind donations and more than 20,000 trained volunteers that mean Samaritans is always there for anyone struggling to cope.  Find out how you can support us: http://www.samaritans.org/support-us