My girlfriend has for a while been wanting to do some charity work, so after reading a leaflet about The Samaritans we attended a 2 hour chat about what it involves last night.
She was interested more in helping from an admin / fundraising point of view than being a telephone operator, but that's understandably what 3/4's of the presentation revolved around. And it left me feeling very confused.
For a start, I didn't truly realise that the Samaritans are purely there to listen, and not advise / assist, so don't give out other organisations' numbers, helplines, details etc. or ever pass on any details to the police. Secondly, they got over 5 million calls last year ranging from people struggling with paying the next bill through to paedophiles who had just committed a crime and kids who had just overdosed and wanted someone to talk to in their dying moments.
It was a very humbling 2 hours, and one that made me realise that it's a monumental ask of people. The hours are fairly inconvenient, the training lasts 8 weeks, the emotional trauma initially is great, the pay is lousy (£0), the abuse is apparently quite regular and you rarely get to find out whatever happened to the caller once they've hung up. But yet there are dozens waiting to do it and they all seemingly love being of assistance.
I left the room wanting to help in SOME way, but don't think I could ever be truly non-judgemental or emotionally detached enough to operate a phone line.
Could you do it?