Sophie’s story

Listening is such a powerful tool

When Sophie was struggling to cope, she turned to Samaritans. Today, she’s a Samaritans volunteer herself. She explains why she believes listening is one of the most underrated skills.

The only thing that I knew about Samaritans when I was younger were the posters or signs at train stations, I thought that you had to be suicidal to reach out until I got told that they are round the clock for emotional support.

Having been that person who needed someone to listen and support them through a difficult time, I know what it feels like and the courage that it takes to reach out and ask for help. I never imagined three years ago I would be the one sitting in a Samaritans chair, picking up the phone and listening to someone who needs my time. We all have the skills to be a good listener, it’s just about bringing them to the surface, putting your own emotions aside and really being present with that caller.

The most valuable thing that I learnt in the training about the service is that my job is to sit with that person. If they are in a dark place, I don’t look down at them, or try and dig a way out for them, I simply sit beside them and see the world through their eyes. Listening is such a powerful tool. When we talk to family or friends about a worry, they tend to want to give us their opinions, offer advice and fix things for us when all we really want is to be listened to.

I think back to that night when I first made the call to Samaritans, I was terrified, it was a whirlwind of emotions flying around my head, not knowing what to expect, would they even answer, was I wasting their time?…All of that came to a sudden standstill when a soft voice answered and told me to ‘Take my time and they would be there to listen’. All that initial panic I was feeling just seconds before, faded away.

When you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed it can feel like there is nowhere or nobody to turn to. Having that safe space and opportunity to be listened to without any distractions or judgement is lifesaving.

Mental health can be a long and lonely road, it’s isolating and makes you feel unworthy of a person’s care or love. I felt like I had to keep my depression this massive secret. I didn’t want anyone to know how I was really feeling. I was scared of how they would react and felt a complete burden on everyone around me, so now being able to pick up the phone and listen is a privilege.

If I ever need to be reminded that there are good people in the world, I think about all the amazing volunteers I have met on this journey, some of whom I am lucky enough to call my friends.

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