We caught up with Steve Gifford, Deputy Director for Outreach and External Relations at Walsall and District branch (who was a guest speaker at one of our previous Paycare Wellbeing e-clinics – our free monthly hour-long sessions focused around a different wellbeing topic each time), to find out more about the wonderful work undertaken by the organisation…
“Talk To Us is a campaign to highlight the value of talking, but also the value of the service that we offer. You only have to look at some of the recent statistics to see the role of Samaritans is even more important now, particularly with the pandemic which has affected everyone in one way or another.
“We are trying to get the word out that talking is a fundamentally powerful thing. There’s no question at all that society has changed and we tend to be more insular now – which can mean we’re not so open to showing kindness and looking out for other people, so that’s why Samaritans try and encourage people to do that.”
How would you describe the work of Samaritans?
“On my first ever shift as a volunteer, I worked with a lovely lady called Julie. I sat down, terrified because I was on my own now after all the training. She looked at me and said ‘there’s no secret to this, just be kind’.
“People often call us because they simply need to offload, we’re there to listen. A call could be an hour long and often, at the end of the call they may say ‘I can’t tell you how much better I feel’ and sometimes the volunteer may have said only 20 words in the whole call!
“We talk to people for any reason – sometimes people have just had a bad day and they know talking about it will help. There’s a perception you have to be suicidal to call Samaritans, but we want anybody to call us who is struggling with anything at all. Callers will say ‘my struggle is nothing compared to others’ but we don’t look at it like that, everybody we talk to is equally important.”
What can people reading this blog do to support others?
“Everyone has the skills to be able to show that kindness by simply asking people how they are, engaging with them and listening to what they have to say. That act of kindness can make a massive difference.
“None of us know what other people are going through – you could be the first person who’s spoken to them for several days.
“It’s about showing that you care, and making sure the conversation is about them and not you – focus on them and try and be non-judgemental about what they are telling you. At Samaritans, we try not to say ‘I understand’ because even if people have a shared experience, they will experience it in different ways, and be impacted differently too. We try not to use language like ‘why’ as that can be interpreted as judgemental, and we try to ask open questions.
“We don’t give advice or tell people that everything will be OK. We don’t know that. We’re also trained to have patience with callers, we don’t expect them just to blurt everything out – instead we embrace silence rather than trying to fill any gaps in conversation. This allows the person time and space to think. Sometimes, people call and just don’t know what to say. We then simply reassure them we are there, give them time and space so they can talk to us whenever they are ready.”
Thank you so much to Steve for the fantastic support he and his fellow Samaritans provide for the hundreds of callers they receive across the UK every hour of every day. And thank you of course for offering up some fantastic guidance about Samaritans, Talk to Us, and how we can all become better listeners.
Don’t forget if you’re a Paycare Policyholder you also have the option of using our EAP, a confidential telephone service there for any of life’s issues. If someone is in immediate risk or danger, please contact emergency services to ensure they get the crisis support they need.
Whoever you choose to talk to – it’s simply important to remember how important talking is 😊
For more health tips – simply head to our Paycare Blog 💚