What Actually Happens If You Call The Samaritans?

The shame and judgement behind calling the Samaritans is a direct reflection of the appalling stigma that still surround mental health today. If talking to someone is encouraged, why is talking to the Samaritans any different? It’s unfortunate that people still feel they aren’t worthy of using this service or that their problem isn’t big enough. Anyone who works in the Samaritans will tell you that if it’s a big deal to you, it’s a big deal to them. The Samaritans are known for their calming presence and true ability to listen and help those who don’t feel they can continue any longer, but they are much more than a suicide hotline.

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Photograph Copyright of Samaritans UK

The Samaritans helped approximately 1.2 million people throughout 2020; providing a confidential listening and advice service, helping others to explore their options and signpost to other services if needed. Their ethos is that everyone is worthy of support for anything that is affecting them. The service is free, it won’t appear on any phone bill and is completely anonymous. The calls cannot be traced and it’s individual choice how much identifying information is shared. As a mental health nurse, the people I work with are usually unsure about the amount of information they share. Thankfully, this initial discomfort often dissipates as we bust some of the myths around how mental health services work. Usually this is a discussion around hospital treatment being a last resort, the other options that are available and an understanding of our confidentiality agreement. When people are struggling with their mental health, the additional anxiety of “what if” can be extremely distressing and the anonymity when calling the Samaritans can be the vital comfort needed in that very moment.

There is no doubt that the Samaritans are helpful, but I completely understand when people tell me calling is easier said than done. When I was at university there was a period of time whereby I struggled deeply with my mental health and the thought crossed my mind, “I wonder if the Samaritans could help me?”. It was months until I built up the courage to pick up the phone, and weeks after that I managed to speak rather than pressing red as soon as a wonderful volunteer asked how they could help. We think about it, we prepare for it (which for me and my anxiety-ridden brain also included trawling through the internet to read other people’s experiences talking to the Samaritans) and finally, we do it. For many, this initial interaction is more than just a phone call- it’s an acceptance that we need help.

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Photograph Copyright of Samaritans UK

When you call the Samaritans you can share as little or as much as you like. They may ask you questions to understand your story but they will never pressure you into sharing details you don’t want to. I can’t say it enough- you can call for anything that’s bothering you. Loneliness, grief, anxiety, low mood, body image, eating struggles, hearing voices, relationship breakdowns, nightmares, sleep difficulties; if it’s affecting the way you feel, they can support you. Sometimes they ask a little about your history and support you’re currently receiving elsewhere (if any) and explore ways to help with your situation. They don’t tell you what to do but they can help you to make a plan collaboratively if needed. Even if you don’t want advice and you just want to be heard, they’re available to be a virtual shoulder to cry on or a pair of ears that aren’t emotionally invested in what’s going on for you. There is no limit on the amount of times you can call and no timescale on support offered- although many volunteers have had 10 minute calls to 2 hour calls, the average time spent supporting one person is usually around 45 minutes. During this time, you are in full control. You can end the call at any time.

You can call the Samaritans on 116 123. The Samaritans also have an email service at jo@samaritans.org (although understandably, this isn’t encouraged if you need urgent support) and a pilot scheme for an online chat service.

Speaking to the Samaritans is often assumed to be ‘extreme’. It is subtly suggested in our communities that the line should only be used for people who are severely depressed and suicidal, which we know is not the case. I’d encourage everyone to keep the Samaritans number to hand. It’s good to know you have access to a number that will always have someone pick up the phone.

To read more about The Samaritans, visit their website here.

Biancha

EFT With The Anti-Burnout Club

For World Mental Health Day the Anti-Burnout Club are offering everyone 21 days FREE access to their online courses and stand-alone classes, when you sign up today. This platform is a hub for all things mental health and wellbeing; from yoga and nutrition advice to breathing techniques, sleep stories and confidence workshops. I’ve just completed an EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) course with them and I already can’t wait to dive straight in to something new.

My EFT Journey

Prior to starting this course, I hadn’t heard of EFT before. My knowledge of Emotional Freedom Techniques started and ended with “it’s something about tapping”. During this course our wonderful teacher, Aga, taught us what it is, how to do it and why it works. I’d encourage everyone to join the course to find out more about this technique but, if you’re still not convinced, let me tell you a little bit more…

EFT, or EFT tapping, is a practical self-help method that combines using acupressure points with psychological therapy techniques for emotional healing and stress-management. The pressure points used are in the face and upper body and we’re encouraged to steadily and gently tap them as we work our way through the process of reminding ourselves of an event, acknowledging our emotions from this and adapting our behaviour to manage this emotion. I could have completed this course as a mental health nurse, taking this education forward in my career only, but we’re humans too and so I completed this course with a real problem in mind.

Sometimes, when people feel low or anxious they think about the same thing over and over again. This is called rumination. For me when I’m feeling particularly anxious, which usually goes hand-in-hand with stress, my rumination replays events and conversations I’ve had throughout the day, making me doubt my reactions and behaviours and wonder what others think about me. Did I say the right thing? I wonder if I sounded stupid or incompetent then. Did I offend them? Should I have acted differently? Rumination for some people can be debilitating. We need to find coping skills that work and lock them away in our mental health toolbox until we need them again. My toolbox is full of useful tools, some I use regularly and some I haven’t used in years, and EFT is another to add to my collection. We know that there is no magic pill to take stress and worry away for us, but I’ve found that in regards to the physical sensations of anxiety EFT can do exactly that.

Woman Wearing Hijab Looking at Camera

EFT tapping has been proven to have a calming affect on the Amygdala and Hypothalamus (the parts of the brain that have many responsibilities, one of which is managing our emotions). It’s also been proven to affect our hormone production, making us produce less cortisol (stress hormone) and therefore, reducing our anxiety levels.

The course over on The Anti-Burnout Club includes the following:-

  • Introduction to EFT Tapping
  • 3 minute Tapping for Stress
  • EFT for Overwhelm
  • Tapping for Happiness
  • Tapping Before Bed

If this doesn’t sound up your street, there are so many other options to choose from. A lot of the courses are available to work through at your own pace as well as daily live lessons. I can guarantee you’ll find something useful, and what better day to start prioritising your mental health than on World Mental Health Day (and for free too).

So, HAPPY WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY. Our mental health is something to be celebrated, treasured and cared for. I hope you find something from this platform to make you that little bit happier or your life that little bit easier.

Click here to sign up for 21 days free (sign-up only available on World Mental Health Day- 10th October 2021). See more from The Anti-Burnout Club here.

We Don’t Know a Lot About Mental Health, but We Do Know This…

Mental Health is a huge part of my life. I’m a Mental Health Nurse by day and an anxious, super-organised empath by night (OK, OK, I’m those things throughout the day too). It’s great to see that Mental Health is becoming something important to all of us, as it should be. It’s hard for me to remember sometimes that for some people mental health is still an abstract concept to them, depending on the information they’ve had access to (or not in some cases) and their lived experiences. When I see comments on social media that at first seem ignorant, I remind myself that some people are simply uneducated (and I promise, I mean that in the least patronising way possible). Instead of cancelling people and dividing society in to “them” and “us”, those of us with stories to tell can help them to understand.

So, What Is Mental Health?

Our mental health is with us every single day no matter where we are, who we’re with or what we’re up to. It’s there and it’s affected by all of our behaviours and circumstances (even those outside of our control), our genetics, our past experiences and our personality types. It’s often phrased as ’emotional health’ but it’s so much more than that. Sure, it involves our emotions and the way we feel but it also includes our social and psychological wellbeing which, although they’re linked, are totally different. In a nutshell, this means our mental health affects our thoughts, feelings and actions every second of every day.

We all have mental health and our aim is to maintain this. Often, the terminology is misused as a way to describe what is actually mental ill-health; but mental health is not simply the absence of illness. The best way to describe mental health is to imagine it on a continuum. At one end we have feeling content, great day-to-day functioning and positive stress-tolerance skills (that work). At the other end, we have the opposite; feeling generally pessimistic and negative, poor functioning and the inability to manage stress (often leading to severe and persistent mental health struggles presenting as a range of different symptoms). We all slide up and down the continuum. The continuum stays the same for all of us, but the speed and distance in which we slide differs from person to person.

Photo of Woman Leaning on Wooden Table While Looking Upset

“I don’t feel mentally healthy. Now what?

Remember we can, and will, slide both ways on this continuum. It’s inevitable that we will all go through mental health struggles to a lesser or greater extent throughout are lives. We are constantly sliding, every day. This shows that no matter what mental health struggle you’re going through, things can get better. You can slide back up the scale of mental health. To do that, we all have different things that will help us cope and if needed, different treatments that are beneficial. It most certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution- but it can be resolved nevertheless. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that mental ill-health doesn’t have to be a life sentence. If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s worth speaking to your GP who can support you navigate your way back to where you want to be on the continuum.

“I don’t want to slide!

We can’t stop ourselves from sliding completely, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. By experiencing some stress we learn ways to cope and increase our ability to manage even bigger stressors when they arise in the future. Sometimes, sliding is completely out of our control but we can do some things to add a little bit of friction, such as: exercise, getting enough sleep, avoiding use of illicit substances or excessive alcohol and generally checking in with yourself on a daily basis. If you notice something out of the ordinary, talk about it.

Back view unrecognizable girlfriends wearing casual clothes hugging each other while standing on grassy vast field in summer countryside

If you’re stressed out, feeling low or otherwise worried about your mental health and need someone to talk to, please find contacts below for people who can support you:

UK

Samaritans UK– Free, 24/7 telephone support or webchat (pilot) for anyone needing confidential support.

Mind Infoline– 9-5pm Mon-Fri- Non-urgent queries about mental health support that may be available to you.

Campaign Against Living Miserably UK– 5pm- Midnight Every Day- Confidential helpline and webchat for anyone needing support.

YoungMinds Textline– Free, 24/7 text support for people under 18.

(If you’re in another country, I am not familiar with the services near you and therefore don’t feel able to make any recommendations. Please speak with your health provider or go online to find appropriate support. If you’re not from the UK & would like to recommend a useful service, please feel free to drop their detains in the comments below).

Biancha