Alex has been volunteering with the Samaritans for two years (Image: Alex Dodd)
No one knows more than Alex Dodd how important it is to listen. She has been managing phones day and night at her regional Samaritan branch in Blackpool for more than two years, working three-hour shifts around her daily work as an instructor for an energy company. At the moment, however, like many other workers in the UK, she was passed over and spent most of her time at home, where she lives with the police fiance, James, and their dog, Arnie.
So when it comes to being there as part of the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for those in need of emotional support, it is on hand, especially when they are busy.
Alex, 29, says: “We are always busy. Even before the pandemic. The minute I hung up the phone, another call came.
"I've never had a time when I could just go out and leave my phone. It's constantly ringing and during my shift I could take seven or 20. I can answer that, depending on what people need."
"I could be on a call for 20 minutes or an hour and a half."
“We don't give advice. We are there to listen and try to help people make their own decisions. "
While facing the challenge of helping those in need of support during this global emergency, Samaritans, she says, continue to provide their services, including receiving and responding to letters and emails.
“Some people find it easier to write everything and, at the end of my shift, I will respond frequently to their emails,” she explains.
"The only real difference since the blockade is that some people are calling us who might not have done it before."
“They may be alone or have difficulty coping. But the feelings they have are the same. "
"I learned that life can be an absolute roller coaster, but it is very important to talk about feelings honestly."
“I have a very close friend, and from what I learned from the Samaritans, he opened up. He thanks me so much for doing this.
"I really believe that everyone should have access to some kind of support when life gets tough."
"There may be long waiting lists for the NHS for any form of mental health support, which means that people need somewhere else to look – and most of the time they call Samaritans."
& # 39; We are always busy & # 39; says Alex (Image: Alex Dodd)
Alex says that in speaking openly about his own experiences and raising awareness about mental health problems, the younger Royals played an important role.
"I think it really helped that Princes William and Harry spoke out."
“Before that, people probably thought, 'Oh, the Royals, their lives are incredible. They don't have the same concerns as normal people. While everyone has the same concerns, but in different ways. "
"Just because they are members of the royal family, does not mean that they have no problem."
Alex worked for seven years at Girlguiding North West England (Image: Alex Dodd)
Before deciding to volunteer as an institution listener, Alex worked for seven years at Girlguiding North West England.
His job was to help members discover their full potential through a variety of activities and events.
"Seeing all the leaders work so hard with the next generation of women – and all for free – inspired me to volunteer for a cause that I was also passionate about and am a good natural listener to," she explains.
Another reason she chose to volunteer was because of a more personal experience.
"I went through my own dark times in my early twenties, when I suffered a broken relationship that caused me anxiety."
"I left on the other side, so I wanted to give back to people who could be in the same position as me, support them and inform them that there is light at the end of the tunnel".
Not that she wasn't worried about getting the first calls after finishing training.
“After the formal training ended, I received a mentor, who is another volunteer within the industry. She was fantastic – very patient – and gave me great tips when listening to calls. "
"I went through my own dark times," says Alex (Image: Alex Dodd)
"In the first few shifts, I heard my mentor's calls. Then it was my turn to take my first call. It was quite scary at first, but my mentor was very supportive. And after a few more shifts of working together, I was left on their own, ”recalls Alex.
When working full-time, Alex often takes weekend shifts for Samaritans.
"The most rewarding part is probably at 1:30 pm on Sunday morning, when someone calls and has never shared their intimate and dark thoughts and feelings with anyone else."
"You feel honored that someone in the world has opened up to you, which they can because Samaritans are a confidential service."
Samaritans continues its work during confinement, with social distance from volunteers, while receiving calls at branches.
The charity also supports its own volunteers.
"If something upset us or there are concerns that we can take home, we have a leader that we can unload on before we sign our shift."
"We also have a volunteer support team that we can talk to if we're really struggling after receiving calls," explains Alex.
At home, Alex spends much of his time painting in his gardening studio and running exercises.
"Having a routine is really important, especially if you are not currently working."
"Even if you go, but you can't go to the gym or see friends, it makes a huge difference to your mental health and well-being if you exercise and leave the house," she insists.
However, Alex will do most of his exercise since the beginning of July by participating in the Samarathon virtual fundraising marathon, launched last year.
Alex is training for a virtual fundraising marathon (Image: Alex Dodd)
The idea is for friends and family to sponsor people to run, run or walk 26.2 miles at their own pace and for as long as they want in July.
The funds raised will go to Samaritans.
"Training in a pandemic outbreak is quite different from last year, so I will adapt to the situation by adjusting it in my daily exercise," says Alex.
"Volunteering with Samaritans offers you a genuine connection with others in the country."
“It certainly puts perspective on my own life. With what we're going through, listening is very important. We are in this together and we will overcome it. "
To support Alex, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/alex-dodd3.
- Every six seconds someone calls the Samaritans for help.
- Anyone can contact the charity free of charge and in confidence at any time and from any phone, including a cell phone without credit. Call 116 123 – the number will not appear in your account – or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For people concerned about the coronavirus, several resources are available on the Samaritans website (samaritans.org).
- Volunteer training consists of five- or six-hour face-to-face sessions and digital learning. After completing the training, the new volunteers complete a series of guided shifts, during which they receive support and guidance from an experienced volunteer.
- To learn more about Samarathon, visit samaritans.org/samarathon.