When Anthony was struggling with his own dark thoughts at a station and looking at a Samaritans sign, he was approached by a stranger who offered to take him for a coffee. This was enough to distract him from those thoughts. The Samaritans sign prompted him to become a Samaritans volunteer 20 years later.
In 2022, Anthony approached someone in distress he was worried about. His simple act of trusting his instincts, making small talk and listening saved a stranger’s life.
"When I was a funeral director in the early 2000s, I went through a very low time in my life. I didn’t realise that when you take on that job, you also take on all the grief that you’re dealing with. I remember I’d started drinking more. I remember feeling really depressed.
"I walked to a train station. I have no idea what I was planning to do, I hadn’t got that far in my mind. I remember standing there and looking at a Samaritans sign. A lady must have seen me looking at the sign because she came over to me and said: ‘Do you fancy a coffee?’
It was that interaction, by someone I didn’t know, that stopped me entertaining those dark thoughts.
"My experience led me to volunteer twenty years later. When people have problems and speak to someone about it, and they speak to someone who won’t interrupt or give advice, they often answer their questions themselves. I tend to choose the overnight shifts. To have the lines open at that time is an amazing privilege – to be there for people when no one else is.
"Recently, I’d finished at the gym, and I went to where my car was parked. When I was there, I noticed a security guard running past me and towards a lady who was about to take her life. I didn’t even think, I just went over. I discreetly said to security that I was a Samaritan and asked if there was anything I could do to help.
"I started by introducing myself. I went on by saying: ‘can you give me a few minutes to talk to you and we’ll see if there’s anything that you say that we can point you in the right direction and get you some help’.
"I didn’t think ‘what if it goes wrong’ – I was preoccupied with understanding what the lady was thinking. It gave me confidence to approach her. For the lady involved, it looked as though she really appreciated having someone not be scared of what she was saying or feeling. It made that situation a lot easier to handle. To approach someone can be a nerve-wracking experience, but if you were in that situation, wouldn’t you want someone to approach you as a human, no matter their training? I’d say trust your instincts, you don’t need training or skills to listen. People need someone to listen more than anything."
For me – the ability to be a listening ear to somebody is a real gift.