Become a Samaritans listening volunteer

Listening volunteers are there for anyone who needs someone. They help more than 5.7 million people each year. And they can change the course of someone’s life. But many calls and messages to Samaritans go unanswered because we don’t have enough volunteers. That’s where you come in. Find out if being a listening volunteer is right for you.

Help people at difficult times

Every six seconds someone contacts us. Every six seconds we can help someone turn their life around. As a listening volunteer you get the chance to make a real difference to someone’s future.

Get support every step of the way

You’ll receive full training to prepare you for the kinds of conversations you’ll have. And when you start out, you’ll have a mentor with you, to give you confidence you’re doing the right thing.

Learn to do something valuable

You’ll gain a range of new skills and the confidence to use them, including the ability to understand people and manage difficult conversations. Many employers value these kinds of skills.

What it’s like being a listening volunteer

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  • It’s always different and always interesting – no two conversations are the same.
  • It feels like a privilege to have people confiding in you.
  • You’re never on your own, and there’s a fun, supportive atmosphere in our branches.
  • You can offer support on the phone, email or text.
  • You can take a break between conversations whenever you need to.
  • Spending a few hours helping other people can make you feel good about yourself.

I was blown away by how prepared I felt to enter the phone lines and how helpful everyone was once I began taking calls.

Lexy - Samaritans volunteer

How you need to treat people

  • Open minded

    You’re willing to understand someone else’s point of view, even if it’s different from yours.
  • Discreet

    You’ll be careful with any information you're told, and never share it outside Samaritans.
  • Supportive

    You’ll help maintain a friendly and supportive atmosphere.
  • Respectful

    You won’t discriminate against anyone for any reason, including gender, race, sexuality, disability or political views.
  • Empathetic

    You’re comfortable with your own feelings and able to share another person’s feelings.
  • Honest

    You’re able to tell the truth even when it’s difficult – for example about the type of support we can offer people, even when they want more.

Can anyone be a listening volunteer?

Anyone has it in them to be a Samaritan. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve gone through difficult times yourself, like mental health issues or a criminal record.

What matters is that you believe in what we believe in and you want to help people – all kinds of people, from all walks of life.

You need to be 18 or over, and because we'll invest in you (our training is really high quality), you need to see this not just as a short term role but something you're likely to do more long term.

Serving police officers and special constables can’t be listening volunteers because they have a duty to report crimes, whereas our focus is on listening.

And we have zero tolerance for anyone who tries to take advantage of the vulnerable people who contact us.

What kinds of conversations might I have?

People of all kinds contact us about all kinds of problems. It could be depression, loneliness, stressful situations at home or work, debt, abuse. We listen, give them a chance to get it out, and talk things through with them.

Only about 1 in 5 calls or messages are from people feeling suicidal, and the vast majority of these aren’t actively planning to end their lives.

How much time will I need to give?

Listening volunteers typically do one shift of about 3 to 4 hours a week (the exact amount of time depends on the branch).

Will I need to volunteer at night?

We need more volunteers at night so we're there whenever people need us – and often they need us most in the middle of the night, and there's nowhere else to go. Our volunteers often say that the conversations they have during the night are the ones they feel have made the biggest difference. A night shift is usually 4 to 6 hours every 4 to 8 weeks, but if nights are particularly difficult for you we can be flexible. We’ll cover your travel expenses so you can get home safely.

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One thing that I always take away from a shift is the 'feel-good factor'. Working in an environment with positive people and occasionally being told that just being there made all the difference to someone's life is reward enough for me.

Herbie - Volunteer

What support and training will I get?

Training

You'll be given high quality training to prepare you for the role. The training takes place during weekday evenings or weekends, and there are 10 sessions lasting 3 hours each. It typically takes a few months before you're ready to start volunteering.

You’ll also receive ongoing training several times a year to keep building your skills.

Mentoring

Towards the end of the training, you’ll be given a mentor – an experienced volunteer who will sit with you during your first few shifts.

They’ll give you feedback and support, answer your questions, and help develop your confidence.

Support

You’ll never be on your own as a listening volunteer. And there’s always time to talk through anything.

Sharing what’s happened with other Samaritans is a good way of dealing with anything you find difficult.

How do I become a listening volunteer?

You'll go through an enquiry and selection process, followed by in-depth training.
  • 1Complete the enquiry form online

    It's quick – we just need a few details.
  • 2Go through a selection process

    We'll want to get to know you more, and why you want to become a volunteer.
  • 3Complete a criminal record check

    If you have a criminal record it won't necessarily stop you from becoming a volunteer. We’ll consider each case individually.
  • 4Provide references

    We'll ask you for the details of two people who are happy to give you a reference.
  • 5Start your training

    This usually takes place over 10 sessions and covers everything you'll need.
  • 6Be paired with a mentor

    You’ll have an experienced volunteer with you for your first few shifts.
  • 7Start your role

    You’ll start your shifts with your mentor alongside you. And you’ll be given ongoing support and training as time goes on.

Ready to enquire?

Enquiring won't take long, but make sure you've read everything on this page first.
Enquire now

Do you have more questions?

Our team of experts are on hand to answer any questions you may have about becoming a volunteer.