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Become a Samaritans listening volunteer

Listening volunteers are there for anyone who needs someone. They answer more than 5.7 million calls for help each year. And they can change the course of someone’s life. But many calls 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 massive 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 special

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 employees 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 calls 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 other people

It is important you believe in the same ways of treating other people that we do.
  • 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 callers tell you.
  • 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.

What kind of people we’re looking for

Anyone has it in them to be a Samaritan. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’ve had troubles yourself, like mental health issues or a criminal record. And you don’t need to have gone through difficult life experiences either.

What matters is that you believe in what we believe in and you want to help people.

However, 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.

What are the calls like?

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 simply listen, give them a chance to get it out, and talk things through with them.

Only about 1 in 5 calls 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). You’ll be able to book your shifts for when it suits you.

Will I need to volunteer at night?

We need volunteers to do a night shift so that our service is there whenever people need us – and often the middle of the night is the worst time of all. 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.

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 training that lasts about 2 months to prepare you to take calls. It generally takes place during weekday evenings and some weekends. There are 10 sessions of 3 hours each.

You’ll also continue to get 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 on shifts

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

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?

Becoming a listening volunteer takes around 3 months, including the application process and the training.
  • 1Complete the enquiry form online

    It takes just 10 minutes.
  • 2Meet us for an interview

    You’ll meet two Samaritans so we can get to know you more. We want to find out things like your background and why you want to become a volunteer. After your interview, we will need to get references. We will ask you for the details of two people who are happy to give you a reference.
  • 3Complete a criminal record check

    If you have a criminal record we’ll consider each case individually.
  • 4Start your training

    This usually takes place over 10 sessions and covers everything you'll need to start taking calls.
  • 5Get given a mentor

    You’ll be paired up with an experienced volunteer who will be with you for your first few shifts.
  • 6Start taking calls

    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 only takes about 10 minutes. Make sure:
  • You’ve read the information on this page
  • You have your contact details to hand
  • You have your diary ready so that you can tell us when would be a good time for your interview
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.