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The Gift of Listening

Jenni McCartney

Jenni McCartney (@SamaritansJenni) has been a volunteer at Samaritans for more than 30 years, and in 2015 was elected Chair of Trustees, representing the charity’s 21,000 volunteers.

As part of her role she writes a blog for Samaritans’ internal website, delivers speeches at the Council of Samaritans and at branch AGMs, and spends time travelling round the 201 branches dotted throughout the UK and Ireland to meet with volunteers and help spread the word.

In recognition of these efforts, Jenni has been awarded the CharityComms Inspiring Communicator Award for her work engaging with volunteers, and for representing Samaritans in the media.

In today’s episode we learn about the history and formation of Samaritans, how and why Jenni first became a volunteer and, more importantly, why she decided to stick with it for more than thirty years.

We explore the most common reasons people turn to Samaritans, how it evolved from a suicide prevention line into an emotional support service that anybody could call for any reason, why Samaritans policy is primarily to listen without giving advice, and how this approach can often be more effective in helping callers find the answers they’re looking for.

We also explore what it’s like to be a volunteer answering calls, what’s involved in the training process, what you actually say and do when a call comes in, how you learn to help other people deal with their negative life experiences without letting it affect your own emotional well being, but ultimately, how listening to other people’s problems is, more often than not, a rewarding experience for both parties.

 

CRISIS HELPLINES

SAMARITANS (UK & ROI): 116 123 – Available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This number is FREE to call and won’t appear on your bill. You do not have to be suicidal to call.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US): 1 800 273 8255 – Available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This number is FREE to call, but may appear on your bill (please check with carrier). You do not have to be suicidal to call.

Live outside the UK or US? For a comprehensive list of international helplines, or to find a crisis centre in your area please click here!

Recommended Links

Samaritans – Home Page

Samaritans Volunteer Sign-up Page

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Image courtesy: Alon

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