MY STORY: Learning how to listen

MY STORY: Learning how to listen

Like so many of us, as I got older I began to realise some of the things that I hadn’t done as well as I could have over the years - both personally and professionally, and I found myself reflecting more and more on what I could have done better.  When this combined with events such as loved ones getting ill and parents dying, it became quite challenging at times for it not to affect my mood.

For a time, some of these things felt difficult to come to terms with, and for someone who has always worked hard, I found myself struggling to stay focused and motivated when other things in my life were becoming more challenging.   While I have never had a day’s sickness and have always found ways to overcome these feelings, there were certainly days when I wasn’t as effective as I wanted to be and I had to work very hard to minimise those.

The more I reflected, the more I realised that while I have always been a good talker (some may say too many words are not always good!), I haven’t always listened as well as I could have.   Five years ago I decided to do something about it, in an effort to both support others suffering times of difficulty and just as importantly to learn the skills to improve my own listening to help me improve at work and home I decided to become a Samaritan.

Having given just 4 hours a week of my time (albeit late at night or early morning) to intensely listen to the challenges others face has not only strengthened my view that the service offered by this wonderful organisation is essential to those in distress and despair, it has made me much more grateful for what I have in my own life that is good. 

Samaritans was the world’s first telephone support service, and now has about 20,000 volunteers nationally in 201 branches answering a call every 6 seconds as well as supporting others through email, text and letters.  It also offers support face to face in branch and at festivals, events and on the streets.   Its service is for everyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide and it now offers a freecall number (116 123) as well as email as a method of contact.  If you want to know more about being a Samaritan or the support they offer please contact me or go to

I now lead on training new Samaritans in my branch and get a real kick out of seeing new ‘listeners’ become more confident, and shedding the way the rest of the world listens (which is often not as good as it could be!).  From having times when things were tough for me, I am now very proud to call myself a Samaritan.  Over recent years, with the introduction of Mental Health training and first aiders and the ‘be you’ campaign I have become equally proud that the Post Office is beginning to talk about mental health issues much more openly and in a much more supportive way, and to change the stigma that has in the past been attached to these issues.  This is important work and perhaps my story can be another little step on that journey.