The importance of volunteering – not just for those in crisis, but for the volunteers too.
Mel Bradley was one of our first volunteers to join SHOUT, a free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. Being part of a pioneering team of volunteers, Mel has made a huge impact to the lives of people that really need support in times of crisis. She has also gained valuable experience, personal development and a feeling of accomplishment.
What is your career background?
Although I qualified and worked initially as an engineer, I have spent the last twelve years as a project and charity manager, building schools in Afghanistan and more recently delivering the First World War commemoration ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ across the UK. I also volunteer for SSAFA the Armed Forces Charity as a caseworker and local manager.
Why did you volunteer with SHOUT?
Having completed a mental health first aid course through SSAFA, I felt that volunteering with Shout was something that would enhance the skills I had learnt and directly support those in crisis. It is also a manageable commitment and something I felt I could do alongside my other work.
Can you tell us a bit about the process you undertook to become a counsellor?
After registering initially, providing references and being accepted onto the course, the online training for Shout is approximately 25 hours. It can be undertaken over several weeks so I didn’t feel under pressure to complete it quickly. Initially I was disappointed that it was all done online, but the delivery is superb – clear and effective. It’s incredible how much you learn and I felt well prepared for the role by the end of it.
Can you briefly explain what you do in a typical shift?
My typical shift is 90-120 minutes and often in the evenings. I usually have 2-3 ‘texters’ in that time – people in crisis messaging Shout and being allocated to me. Though they are using texts, I am on my laptop responding to them in messages under 160 characters from a secure server. I have clear guidelines on how to respond to them in different scenarios and a supervisor to message if I don’t know how to respond or need advice.
Being a volunteer counsellor, what are the main challenges do you face?
It does take time to find your confidence – it is quite a responsibility – and at first I was quite nervous. But the more I do, the more confident I am that I am responding in the right way. It is sometimes frustrating if a ‘texter’ stops messaging or you end up going round in circles, this can happen perhaps once in every 10 conversations. Perhaps the most difficult thing is not always knowing if the outcome for a texter was good, particularly if they are at risk of harm.
Why is being a volunteer counsellor important to you?
It is a way to have a direct positive impact on vulnerable members of our society and people who are in real crisis. Our role is simply to get them out of a crisis situation and through to the next day. It can be hugely rewarding on a personal level.
What three key skills do you believe a volunteer counsellor at SHOUT should possess?
Good written English
What advice would you give to military spouses who are considering volunteering for SHOUT?
Read the information about volunteering carefully before signing up – it does require commitment so make sure you can allocate the time required without it becoming a chore.
Don’t be put off if you don’t have experience in this area – the training is excellent.
If you are interested in learning more about volunteering opportunities at SHOUT please email us at email@example.com and we can help you get started.
If you, or anyone you know, needs support in a crisis, please text 85258 now.