In my ultimate directory of mental health and organisations post, which I shared on my blog a couple of months back, I mentioned that I had personally contacted Samaritans. Lot's of you congratulated me on being so brave, and some of you said that you wouldn't have the courage to do what I did. I want you to know about my experience, to hopefully reassure you that seeking help from an organisation like Samaritans does not make you weak. I am also going to be providing you with some factual information about the Samaritans, so if you want to get in contact with them but are scared for whatever reason, my post will hopefully help you out.
Okay, so what is the Samaritans? The Samaritans are a confidential charity that supports children and young people, with a wide range of problems and difficulties, which includes mental health and suicide. However, please note that; YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE SUICIDAL TO CONTACT SAMARITANS! I wasn't, and it's okay, they will listen to all your problems no matter how big or small they may seem.
In order to get in contact with Samaritans, you don't have to just ring them. You can email, visit one of their branches, text or even write a letter. Though if you feel like you are really struggling the best thing to do is ring them. They are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so by ringing them you will get immediate help unlike if you send them an email, it will take them around 12 hours to reply.
Before I go into details about the Samaritans as a charity and answer some commonly asked questions you may have about contacting them, I thought I would share my personal experiences with contacting them, so you can get a realistic idea of what it is like. This is the first time I had ever used the service and I would definitely use it again if I needed to.
At the end of May this year, which is about a month and a half after I started experiencing symptoms of OCD and mental health difficulties, I chose to contact Samaritans. I was in a real state of despair at this point if I am honest. I couldn't take anymore. I felt like I had no one to turn to. Although everyone on Twitter understood and supported me through the bad days, I didn't want to flood them with all my thoughts, feelings, and problems. I couldn't tell my parents and wasn't brave enough to make a doctors appointment on my own. So I turned to the only people I had left. The Samaritans.
I really didn't know what I was going to say. I chose to email them because I don't like speaking on the phone, and I wanted help pretty quickly. I ended up just writing down all my emotions and everything I had been doing/thinking. I didn't really think it through; I just wanted to make sure that it came across as I was struggling, as I really was at this point and I needed all the help I could get. After pressing send, I went out for the day, forgot all about it and that evening (12 hours later) I got a reply.
In my first email, I outlined some of the emotions I was feeling and some of the difficulties I was experiencing. I told them about how everything had started, the bullying and the hand washing. Their first email back was pretty brief. I presume this was because they get lot's of emails every day from people they never hear from again. They ask very open questions, which are used to help you explore your feelings and help you come up with your own answers to the problems you are going through. They will never label or diagnose you with anything. They never tell you what you should do, they give you advice or suggestions but will never force anything on you.
As the emails went on, I explained the situation more to them including what I had said to the doctor previously and how I was feeling. Samaritans will often ask you questions about things you have mentioned in your first email, but they will never bombard your with questions all at once because they know how overwhelming this can be. In addition to this, they are very good at reminding your that they are there to support you, and they understand what you are going through, which I found really reassuring
In total, the whole conversation consisted of 14 emails back and forth. Throughout the conversation they did ask me if I wanted to tell them my name, to make it more personal. I did, but if you don't feel comfortable, you don't have to by any means. You can even give a pretend name, it that would help. In the end, I felt like I didn't need any help anymore as I had booked my doctors appointment and the rest was donwn to me. However, Samaritans insisted that if I still wanted to talk things through, they were always going to be there to listen and support me. I haven't used the service since.
Samaritans really helped me. It's surprising how much talking through your issues and problems can really help, when you feel like you have no one to talk to. There are lots of misconceptions that surround the service, which may stop someone using them to get the help they need. I am just going to run through some factual information and FAQS about the Samaritans, which may be stopping you or someone you know, reaching out for help.
Firstly, you can be any age to contact the Samaritans. You don't have to be over 18. The Samaritans will only worry about you, not your parents or guardians. The service is also completely confidential. If you chose to ring them, they can't see your phone number and when you email; your email address is removed before it reaches the trained volunteer. The phone line is completely free to call and will not appear on any telephone bill, so no one in your house will know that you have called them. If you didn't want them to know.
If you chose to email them, all your emails would be answered by a human- not automated emails will ever be used. All the emails are kept for 30 days; this is so if you have contacted them before, they can see where you left off, however, after 30 days all emails are removed from the server.
There is no typical person or reason why anyone would want to contact the Samaritans. Samaritans are there to listen to you whatever is on your mind or troubling you. Which could include; mental health problems, relationship or family problems, financial difficulties, loneliness or isolation, school, college or work related stress, thoughts of suicide and many other things. Samaritans will never judge you for coming to them for advice, no matter how big or small your problem is.
You may be worried about who you are actually going to be talking to, do they know what they are doing? All the volunteers have had to go through months of training so they can answer all the emails and phone calls confidently. They will not share any information you share with them, with any one else. If you decide to email the Samaritans, all the emails will be signed 'Jo.'
The main aim of the Samaritans is to help you see everything more clearly; including your emotions and what options are available to you. Sometimes you need to just let all the emotions and go over things again and again, with no time limit and without the fear of being judged. Samaritans can provide this support for you. They are always there for as long as you need them. You don't need to ask the volunteers how they are; they are there to support and listen to you. The Samaritans will never impose any personal beliefs or attitudes on to. They are not religious. When you are ready, you can end the conversation.
I was really happy with the service I received when I contacted the Samaritans. They helped me see the situation from a different perspective. They helped me evaluate the different options I had available and supported all my decisions. Sometimes, it's good to talk about your feelings and emotions with people that truly know you, but sometimes it can be beneficial to get impartial advice from someone who is trained to listen and is not judgmental.
Whatever is on your mind; big or small. You do not have to go through it alone. The Samaritans are there to listen, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, You are not weak for reaching out for help, in fact, you are very strong.
Thank you for reading, as always X
Samaritans Website: http://www.samaritans.org/
Samaritans Email Address: email@example.com
Samaritans Address: Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA