Talking with our thumbs
A year ago I joined the Shout community as a crisis volunteer. A crisis volunteer, you say? What in god’s name is that.
Well. Let’s start from the beginning shall we.
Back in 2017 I was involved with the Heads Together campaign, a national conversation that started to change the way we spoke about our mental health. The effects that time had on my life were quite simply immeasurable for reasons I will bore you with another day. But because of it, I walked away from it making a pact to myself that I would work, where I could, in this space for as long as it would have me.
Yes, I can carry on writing about affairs of the mind and banging my mental health drum to every Tom, Dick & Harr(iet) I come across, but how much good am I really doing?
I was told about Shout in its pilot phase. It was a text based service, supported by Heads Together that was set up to help people in crisis. There were just a little crew of us a year or so ago, who undertook 25 hours training to learn how we could help. As someone who has had her problems in the past, the idea of talking people out of times of trouble via the unspoken word really resonated with me.
I got it.
At times when everything feels too much for me, or the lights in my mind go down, it’s the written word I rely on. It orders my thoughts, and stops me worrying if people are going to look at me strangely for saying I feel the way I do.
The training was no mean feat, but a learning curve all the same. I’ve not stepped foot in a classroom for more years than I care to say, but I got into the swing of it so quickly. I did it from home, on boring Monday nights when there was nothing on the TV or in between loads of washing on a Sunday morning. I learnt so much, and I figured if I could spend an hour a night gliding through Instagram with little meaning, I could turn my time to something more helpful.
I took my first shift last June, from my sofa, in my PJs at a time that fitted in and around my work and social life. Nerve wracking? Yes. Thought I was going to massively balls it up? 100%. Got through it unscathed and helped someone find a cool moment in a time of utter panic? You betcha.
Since then, I’ve dedicated a couple of hours a week where possible (yes, sometimes life gets in the way and I can’t and by the way Shout are totally fine with that) to sit and talk to people that need an ear.
Kids struggling with school work or playground bullies. New Mums feeling lonely and out of control. People struggling with addiction, debt, feelings of worthlessness. Some are tough. Tougher than you can imagine. But more times than not they end with a calmer, more collected person on the other end of the text, who has found their way to happier space to make some better decisions.
And I get to play a part in that journey.
It’s not for everyone, it can be hard. But when you know you’ve helped someone get to a place where they can make a decision that will help them feel better, it makes you feel like superwoman.
A year in and I’ve made friends through the online community of volunteers, some that I’ve spoken on stages and on tele with, some I’ve been for beers with, all of whom have made a real mark on me. I’ve felt supported more than I can say and being as flexible as it is, I haven’t once wanted to give it up.
And that’s that. A year of life changing volunteering that I never thought I’d be able to do.
A year of playing a small part, in a big wheel of legends, that are helping people up and down the UK, 24 hours a day who (like me) can sometimes only find their words with their thumbs.