Make a difference this World Mental Health Day by giving us a Shout
Today (Thursday 10th October) is World Mental Health day, and the theme this year is suicide prevention. So what better time to shout about this incredible platform that I have been volunteering with to support those in a crisis.
It's no secret that there is a mental health crisis today: 1 in 4 people experience a mental illness each year and 1 in 15 people make a suicide attempt during their lifetime. I think that part of the reason for this crisis is the accumulation of years of stigma and silence. For too long now people have been suffering alone and soundlessly. Shout is part of the wellbeing revolution which aims to end this. I strongly believe the greatest way to tackle mental health issues is by talking. Shout does this by providing a reliable and accessible platform from which people are heard, empowered and understood. As the first free 24/7 UK textline service, Shout uses this mode of communication to allow personal, scary and perhaps previously unspoken conversations to be had in a private, anonymous and confidential setting.
Since beginning my journey as a Crisis Volunteer last November, I have now taken over 100 conversations.
Prior to that, however, I completed 30 hours of online training.
All of this equipped me for my first shift as a Crisis Volunteer. Although terrified, I was confident that I had learnt all I needed to know through the quizzes and computer programmed role-plays that the training involves.
And even when I do find myself inevitably stumped in a tricky conversation, we are never alone on the platform. For every shift, there is a wonderful Supervisor who is there with me every step of the way, should I need them.
One of the most useful things learnt during training is how to structure the conversations we have. With a general framework based on building rapport; exploring the texters' issue; risk assessing; identifying the texters' goal; and collaboratively problem-solving, Crisis Volunteers are equipped with the ability to direct the conversations in a helpful way that empowers texters and leaves them with a short-term plan for safety.
Of the 100 conversations I have now taken, at least 40% of them involved texters who were feeling suicidal. All 100 conversations will have involved risk assessing to establish if this were the case or not. Risk assessing involves asking in the most straight-forward way: "are you thinking about suicide/ killing yourself?" Although this may seem a frightful and even dangerous question to be asking, it is a myth that asking about suicide puts the idea into someone’s head. Talking about suicide and mental health doesn’t initiate the action, it initiates the conversation that serves as the relief in working towards preventing such behaviours. If their answer is yes, safety planning will be initiated.
Other issues texters come to us with include self-harm, relationship worries, grief, post-natal depression, bullying, loneliness, mental or physical illness, or fears about another person's wellbeing (3rd party texters). Anything is welcome. Whatever their issue, nine times out of ten, you don't know the outcome of a conversation, and that is perhaps the hardest part of being a Crisis Volunteer - not being able to fix a person's problems, but simply being there to listen to them. At Shout, our main aim is to support a texter in moving from that hot moment of crisis to a cool calm, and so long as that has been achieved, our job is done.
From just 4 hours a week, from the comfort of my home, as people text in on their mobiles and I respond via the platform on my laptop, I am able to have the most rewarding, illuminating and life-affirming conversations, and I am equipped with communication skills to use in every conversation I have in my life, not just the tricky ones.
Texting In and Spreading the Word
Of course, I can't do this post without mentioning the other side of the coin: texting in should you or someone you know be in a crisis.
Should you be feeling overwhelmed, lost, hopeless, like your life is no longer worth living, please, give us a shout and let us support you. Nobody should suffer in silence and nobody should go through a crisis on their own. We are here for you.
Text 85258 for support yourself, or share this number so the loved ones in your life have a place to turn to. Having only launched in March, Shout is still a new service and many people are yet to discover it. But a service like this is exactly what is needed today, for the young and the old. So please, if you share any of my blog posts, let it be this one.