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Interviewees from Shout around the Shout charity logo

5 minutes with Shout’s crisis volunteers

As part of our coverage of Mental Health Awareness Week, we caught up with a team of Crisis Volunteers from 24/7 text service Shout. Your donations help to fund the project,  providing essential support and advice to children and young people in crisis across the UK.

Interviewees from Shout around the Shout charity logo

Shout is just one of several programmes supported by our A Million & Me mental health funding programme. Find out more about the programme and other projects here.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to us, could you start by explaining what Shout is?

Marie: Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. We offer in the moment help for times when life gets overwhelming and you need immediate support. Shout is powered by a team of Crisis Volunteers, who are at the heart of this service. We take people from crisis to calm every single day.

Emma: We offer in the moment help for times when life gets overwhelming and you need immediate support.

Joshua: Whether you are in a ‘hot moment’ or whether you are reaching out to discuss something you feel you can’t discuss with your family and friends; our team of trained Crisis Volunteers has responded to over 300,000 texters who have messaged in when they have needed to.

So, how does Shout work?

Emma: Anyone in the UK who is in a crisis moment can text SHOUT to 85258 and I and my fellow Crisis Volunteers will support them in reaching a calmer place.

Marie: Shout is designed to be as easy to access as possible – there is no app or data required, no registration process, no fee. It is silent, free, confidential, and anonymous – a texter can send a text message any time of day or night wherever they happen to be.

Joshua: You will receive instructions of how our system operates, and soon after, you’ll be connected to one of the team. You will then work with the Crisis Volunteer in discussing your feelings, hopefully bringing you to a state if calm where you take the steering wheel, driving yourself in the right direction.

Angus: Shout gives them access to a human being via a free, anonymous and familiar medium.

A volunteer at the charity Shout

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And what do you do specifically in your roles for Shout?

Marie: We are Crisis Volunteers (CVs); our role is to be there, to listen and provide support to texters during their difficult time. We work with the texter to empower them, to help them discover their inner strengths, and to create long term coping strategies that will get them through their moments of crisis.

Luke: Our role involves communicating in a calm manner with the texter, to determine the reason for them reaching out, and helping them to move from that hot moment, into a cool-calming zone.

Joshua: The organisation provides extensive training and assessment before volunteers are handed the responsibility of speaking to members of the public who are in need. Different needs of the texter are explored, as well as the different stages of a conversation. The need to explore and discuss the issues at hand, eventually empowering the person in need, before the conversation comes to a close.

How have you and your work adapted to the current lockdown? Are you able to continue to provide support to children and families? If so, how?

Emma: Shout is a fully digital service, so during lockdown it has been running as usual.

Marie: We work from home, on our laptops with a secure connection as usual and take conversations with anyone who is feeling anxious, lonely, worried or needs crisis support.

Joshua: We provide 24 hour support, so it is very much ‘business as usual’ during lockdown. CVs have found more time to be of service to the platform, as well as alternating our shift availability patterns to provide the best possible service to those in need, when you need us.

Luke: I can see quite clearly how well Shout, and all the fellow Crisis Volunteers, have stood up to the challenge head on, and believe we have all worked well as one big family, to help those when they reach out for support.

What has Volunteering for Shout in the current climate made you realise about the importance of your work and the project?

Joshua: In this moment in time it is important to understand that everyone is carrying negative emotions around with them at the moment. Fear for the future, or pain from the past, having just lost a relative to health complications. It reiterates the need to ‘be kind’. You never know the issues that someone is faced with today when you pass them in the street.

Emma: Since lockdown began I have supported texters who have felt anxious about Covid-19, frontline workers who need support after being at the forefront of fighting the coronavirus, and texters who are struggling with their mental health during lockdown conditions.

Luke: I have personally seen an increase in the amount of texters, whom have reached out due to being lonely, or feeling isolated, this is most commonly due to their usual support platform being unavailable, whether it be a GP, or friend/family member, or some other professional.

Angus: Most of my texters struggle on a normal day but the fear and isolation of COVID 19 has increased their worries yet reduced their options for getting help or basic human contact. This leaves them feeling literally trapped; in many cases with the cause of their distress. (Through Shout) they can open up without feeling exposed and often this is all that is needed to make them feel they can get through this.

Marie: Shout has been proven to be incredibly important during this uncertain time. Young people are struggling even more now with overwhelming feelings. They may have a difficult home life which has gotten worse for them now. They may be missing their friends and extended families, and are experiencing loneliness. They may be worried about falling behind at school and missed exams. It is vital that we are here for each and every one of them, not just during this time, but always.

Joshua: I am extremely proud to be part of an organisation that stands to serve so many children and adults within our local/national community. Even if a solution can’t be found to solve a problem, stand with someone so they know you are with them in their time of need.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your role?

Marie: I have found the biggest challenge is having to put my own worries and fears to one side, to provide my texters with the support they need and deserve.

Angus: (Helping texters) see that this will end and once out the other side, they will be stronger for it.

Joshua: Even in the challenging times on the platform, we are provided with wonderful, conscientious and compassionate support and assistance from the Supervisors, in our (CV) times of need.

Emma: Having the Shout community around me during lockdown has been a tremendous support. A group of the Crisis Volunteers have even started a weekly Sunday night quiz which we intend to continue once a month when lockdown eases and we move into a new normal.

What would you say to those who donated to BBC Children in Need to support projects like Shout?

Angus: Honestly. I don’t know where to begin. Money is tight for most people so to donate some of it to a project you may not even have heard of so people like me can help children and young people when they most need it literally takes my breath away. Thank you so much.

Emma: Everyone who supports BBC Children in Need is in turn helping to support Shout and the nation’s mental health so a huge thank you from me and from everyone at Shout.

Marie: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart! Your donations have helped to provide support to so many families.

Luke: I would like to say a massive “Thank you” to everyone who has, and continues to donate to BBC Children in Need. The support means that Shout, and the other projects helped by BBC Children in Need can be available at the times when it is needed.

Joshua: Thank you. I have seen first-hand the negative impact that the current global crisis is having on our future generations. Anything that any of us can do to support children in their time of need (especially now) is a huge investment for the future that these children will be shaping. My love for the cause and for the people championing the cause has grown exponentially. At a time when the world needs it the most, we all need to support each other in the good times, and in the bad times too.

Shout is a service for children, young people and people of all ages in crisis. Text Shout to 85258 if you or those close to you need support.

Shout is funded by your donations to BBC Children in Need as part of our A Million & Me programme, supporting children and young people’s mental health across the UK. Find out more about the programme here.

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