Working at Arbuthnot Latham –
Colleague profile: Helping society’s most vulnerable
Emily Bird (previously Jenkins), Private Banker, shares her journey volunteering for mental health service Shout 85258.
I have always had an interest and passion about mental health and truly believe that in the UK, we have a mental health crisis. There are huge numbers of people in desperate need of care, but there are inadequate resources to help.
I have also always wanted to volunteer but wasn’t sure how to make it happen. When the second lockdown was announced last year, I thought to myself, I'll never have more time than I do now, especially without the onerous commute.
I came across Shout 85258 and really liked what they were doing. You don’t speak over the phone, it is all text-based, 24/7. Shout are reaching out to all members of society, those for whom a phone call is too much, or simply just those more used to chatting via messenger.
I started training in November 2020, it’s about four hours a week with lots of assessments online. By February this year I was qualified and ready to go.
My experience helping people in crisis
The ethos of what we do is not to provide long term therapy, but more ‘in the moment of crisis’. Our purpose is moving people from a hot moment to a cool calm. We then try to steer people in the right direction to get help in the future.
I’ve spoken to people ranging from 12- to 60-years-old and while we are trained to deal with a wide range of issues, the sad fact is that most of the people I speak to are having suicidal thoughts.
You volunteer in your spare time and it can be difficult dealing with such distressing topics, but the support is amazing.
After each conversation, we fill in a questionnaire about what we discussed, including a question about our own wellbeing. You get brilliant support from your manager if you’re not feeling too good.
Similarly, the support from colleagues is exceptional. On my first shift, I was so nervous, but people actually messaged me through our portal to wish me luck and offer support. They also train you how to leave what you hear ‘at work’ so to speak, although, of course, some of it stays with you.
Using technology to help people
Another amazing thing about the service is the use of technology and algorithms. They use previous conversations to constantly analyse to evaluate the best way to respond to an individual.
For example, did you know that statistically the best time to ask someone their name is after five messages or exchanges? If you ask too soon, people feel uncomfortable, too late and you lose the personal touch.
It is really interesting how they use tech to determine best way to help people. These are very fragile conversations, so you have to trust the training and the approach.
A fulfilling experience
It doesn’t feel right to call it enjoyable, but volunteering is certainly fulfilling, a type of satisfaction that you cannot get anywhere else. It makes you sad when you learn how bad the mental health crisis is, how many people are slipping through the cracks, but of course, you are doing your bit to help.
It gives you a good perspective on life more generally, I learned not to sweat the small stuff. A minor work dilemma doesn’t seem as bad when you know what others are going through.
It also makes me feel lucky to work at Arbuthnot Latham. We have private health care, and the bank has done lots in recent months on wellness and mental wellbeing. It’s something none of us should take for granted.
For anyone considering something similar, I would say ‘give it a go’. It can be challenging at times, but the help you can give people, the difference you can make is deeply fulfilling.
Looking after your own wellbeing
If you are feeling like you are in a crisis, the first thing is to reach out to someone you know or trust, or there are services like us, or the Samaritans.
It’s amazing the number of people who tell me they feel better simply after externalising their feelings, getting it off their chest.
Of course, you need support putting together a longer-term plan for coping too, that is really important. Shout is a generalised service, but very often point people towards specific help, whether it is information on depression, grief, domestic violence, etc. It is important to have access to information and people who understand what you are going through and can provide ongoing support.
If you feel like you need to reach out to SHOUT, you simply text ‘Shout’ to 85258. Volunteers are there to support you 24/7.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email email@example.com in the UK.
In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.
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