Raising the Roof with Hannah
For the first interview I would like you to meet Hannah:
Hannah’s experience with Mental Health comes from her time volunteering with the Samaritans, as well as experience in contending with her own Mental Health issues. Hannah has recently stopped volunteering with the Samaritans due to career constraints, however, through previous training and having family and friends who still volunteer she is still up to date with their current practices. She has had the amazing opportunity to see it from both sides, giving her a great and unique perspective!
First of all I think the fact that you have volunteered with the Samaritans is brilliant! There are a lot of people out there who need support and I admire people who give that support so readily. So, what first encouraged you to work with the Samaritans?
I first decided to volunteer because I have moments where I really just wanted someone to talk to who wouldn't judge me and wouldn't know any of my history, someone who would just listen to what I had to say without prejudice. Then I thought; most of my friends come to me with their issues so why don't I help others who are really on the edge? There has been suicide within my close family and I wanted to help those who felt most vulnerable. People take for granted that they have people around them but some people might not have spoken to someone for weeks or even months. I wanted to be that person that might be able to help, in some small way.
It's a great that there are people like you out there that volunteer so that they can be around to catch someone who is falling and doesn't expect to be caught. Why do you think people turn to the Samaritans for help?
A lot of people turn to Samaritans because they are looking for an impartial ear. A Samaritan will never judge, nor offer advice. Even when we confide in our closest friends we may be worried about judgement and a Samaritan will simply not judge. They are there to help people talk through what they are going through and the difficulties they may be facing, no matter how big nor small.
The saying is true, you really don't know what goes on behind closed doors in peoples lives, they may appear fine on the surface but experiencing real challenge behind closed doors. Some people turn to Samaritans because they have no one, literally no one, and they can rely on someone being there for them when they feel most vulnerable. Samaritans operates 24/7 so it is never 'the wrong time' to talk.
You mentioned that you have suffered yourself with Mental Health issues, did working with the Samaritans help you to face your own issues?
In terms of my own mental health issues, I experience extreme highs and lows in my emotions. I like to think I manage this and I didn't look to my Samaritans membership to help in terms of that. What being a member of a voluntary membership helps with is giving someone a sense of belonging, a collective initiative and working towards a common goal.
I enjoyed being part of the Samaritans and coming across the people you do helps you to realise the extreme differences in peoples lives. What may be a menial problem to one person may be life changing to another so it helped me to value understanding different perspectives.
The way I deal with my highs and lows (often described as manic but I think this has a negative connotation) is to look into self development and addressing my issues head on with the help of resources such as self-help books.
In my opinion yes at the moment in the culture I live in. Terms are thrown around like 'crazy' and 'mad' when they really shouldn't be.
Also in western culture what we may class as crazy may be seen as spiritual in other eastern cultures. I think we are socialised to think certain actions, behaviours and beliefs are wrong and we need to change those beliefs.
With the help of Time to Change and discussions such as this we need to change mental health issues being a taboo subject, more people suffer from mental health issues than you would care to imagine, be it big or small, from slight OCD to schizophrenia.
People take physical/visible disease very seriously and sympathise with those that have these types of conditions, however they are - in my opinion - less likely to sympathise with someone suffering with mental health issues. This can also be seen in the workplace, people are more likely to feign physical illness when calling into work sick rather than suggesting they are struggling with a mental illness because it is viewed as a weakness .
Whilst you worked with the Samaritans did you ever have family members/friends of people with difficulties that would come to you for support?
I have always been the person that people come to for support so this happened and continues to happen. The only thing is when you are the one to always dish out advice it can sometimes seem hard to find someone yourself to talk to.
It must of been difficult to listen to other people's poblems and relate to them but not feel as though you have someone you can immediately turn to for support yourself. Did you find it that listening to other people issues was of detriment to your own mental health?
I don’t think listening to their issues was of detriment, if anything it helps you to take a step back and put everything that you are dealing with into perspective. You cannot try and relate to another person's problems but you can be compassionate. Sometimes listening to other people's problems can affect your own mental health, sometimes I may find myself wallowing in a depressive state because you look for other people who are feeling the same or use things to trigger your low mood and I would say - and so would the people who run Samaritans - that it is not the place to be if you are not feeling sound in yourself.
Although it is a great place to volunteer, as my moods and mental state can go from high to low rather quickly, I was finding that I perhaps wasnt strong enough to be there when I did leave despite leaving for work reasons.
If you knew there was someone reading this post considering going into volunteering with the Samaritan what advice would you give them?
I would say you need to be in a good place, some things you will hear will be very distressing and challenging, you need to be able to be there for people 100% without affecting your own well being. It is incredibly fulfilling and you will meet some extraordinary people. It is a challenge so you need to assess whether you can cope with what it will entail. Sometimes you will notice throughout training and realise whether it is or isn't for you.
What would you say to someone who is in of support but is struggling to believe that they need/deserve it?
I would say don't suffer in silence. However big or small your problem is to someone else doesn't matter, if it is harming your mental wellbeing and quality of life, talk to someone about it. If you cant find someone you can speak to who are friends and family there is still charitable support out there, and people who genuinely care about your well being. I, more than some, understand what it feels like to not know where to turn but talking about it is the first step in managing what is going on and how it is impacting on your life.
Thank You Hannah!
You can find Hannah and her blog over at www.hannahjanesays.co.uk
If you are struggling with a Mental Health issue please don’t suffer in silence. If you
need unbiased support please contact one of the charities below:
Talk to The Samaritans
Call: 08457 90 90 90 (UK)
Call: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI)
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rethink Mental Illness
Call: 0300 5000 927
The Mind infoline
Call: 0300 123 3393
Or email email@example.com
You are never alone; there is always someone who will listen to you. I will listen to
Please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want/need to chat
or to find out how you can get involved with Raising the Roof on Mental Health.
Remember; there’s strength in numbers….Raise the Roof loud and proud!