For those that don’t know, Samaritans are a free, UK 24 hour service which provide support for those struggling or in distress. There’s a lot of misconceptions about this charity, for example, that you have to be suicidal in order to qualify to ring them. You absolutely do not. They have branches all over the UK with hundreds of volunteers, dedicating time every month to be there at the end of the phone to someone who might need someone to talk to. Samaritans was set up in 1953, has over 200 branches across the UK and Northern Ireland and all the way back in 2011, they had 20,665 volunteers. Samaritans are there, day and night, to anyone who need them. And this year, I was one of those people.
I’m not going to go properly into the reasons why I felt I had to ring Samaritans. But I needed to have an appointment with my counsellor and unfortunately couldn’t because she was on holiday. One day, I felt overwhelmed. My problems were getting worse and I felt like I couldn’t cope. I felt I had hit bottom and I didn’t know what to do. I realised that this was it, if I didn’t do something now to try and reserve this, then I might quite literally go mad. I’d heard of Samaritans and thought about ringing them a few times before but never plucked up the courage to actually do it. I then heard about their texting service from a fellow blogger. I decided to try that and after realising that it wasn’t scary at all, I finally found the courage in me to pick up the phone and talk to an actual person and in that moment, it was the best thing I could have done.
The things to remember about the Samaritans if, like me, you’re nervous about calling are:
- You don’t have to give any information you don’t want to. I never told my volunteers my name, because I didn’t feel the need to. I didn’t know their names either because it’s irrelevant.
- You can hang up at any time. If you start speaking to someone who you feel isn’t going to help, just hang up. Or say you have to go. It really doesn’t matter because…
- You will always be put through to a different person every time you ring. So there’s no fear of being put back through to the person you’ve hung up on.
- You don’t have to be suicidal in order to call. You can call for any reason. I told my volunteer I felt like I was wasting their time for calling about something I did and she reassured me that you never ever waste their time.
- It’s in your hands: the whole conversation, from beginning to end.
I realised all of these things ten-fold after ringing for the first time. I couldn’t believe I had put it off for so long. I was able to talk through my problems with these anonymous people (of all the 3 times I’ve rung, I’ve had a woman answer who all sounded over the age of 40 – but both genders, of all ages become volunteers), all of whom were understanding, non-judgemental and listened with everything they had to me. I came off the phone all 3 of those times, feeling like I was just talking to a friend. Despite not having any idea who was on the other end, where they were based in the country or what their name’s were. Having someone just there to listen can take the entire world off your shoulders – even if it’s just for an hour or so.
The Samaritans volunteers can’t give you concrete advice because they’re not trained mental health professionals but they will listen, offer a unbiased approach towards your problems and make sensible suggestions for you. Having that anonymous, unbiased conversation is what I loved most about calling. Once getting over the initial nerves of calling, you will be surprised at how much you open up to this stranger, how much of your life and soul you’re willing to give to them – once I got talking, I felt so comfortable and was quite happy to tell them everything in order for them to maximize how much they could help me. Samaritans phone number is also completely free. You could speak to them all night if you needed to and they wouldn’t charge you a penny. Their number also doesn’t appear on phone bills, so you can keep it on the down low if you want to.
I cannot stress it enough that you do not have to be suicidal in order to ring Samaritans. It’s a ridiculous notion and one that needs to be abolished because I fear there are so many people out there who could benefit from this service but feel their problems aren’t ‘big enough’ for them to ring. If you’re going through relationship problems, if you’re just feeling lonely, if you’re feeling anxious or panicky and need someone to talk to take your mind off of it, if you need an unbiased opinion about a problem or, most importantly if you are suicidal or feel like you can’t cope with life – Samaritans are there to discuss whatever needs to be discussed and help by being a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone who won’t go anywhere until you’re okay.