More than six thousand people die by suicide each year in the UK, but the figure is believed to be grossly underrepresented and many more attempt or consider taking their own lives.
That’s why a charity in London is offering a unique support service for those who are suicidal.
Unlike other services on offer which offer one-off assistance or a phone number to call, The Listening Places offers face-to-face support and continuity through its counselling service.
“There is very little out there for people who are suicidal,” founder and chief executive Sarah Anderson CBE tells HuffPost UK, adding that suicidal individuals can often be discharged from A&E and directed to the wrong services.
“The Listening Place is unique because it’s the only service where the people who are suicidal can keep coming back for a regular appointment to see the same volunteer on every occasion. That service is done for the length of time that the visitor needs to suit what they need and their suicidal state.”
Anderson, who was once director at the largest call centre for the Samaritans charity, set up The Listening Place last year and the service has since helped 190 individuals with its unique approach to care.
When working with a new individual, Anderson says they are transparent about what they can offer: “We are not mental health experts. We are here to listen in a non-judgemental way and to provide empathy.”
The Listening Project currently has 150 volunteers. Each volunteer is carefully selected (“this work isn’t for everyone”) and undergoes a 15-hour training session.
Volunteers then commit to a regular four hour shift, once a fortnight, as a minimum, and are expected to volunteer for a minimum of one year after training is complete.
As Paul Jackson, the volunteer who features in the video above, says: “We’re human beings essentially that just give a damn about another human being.”
People can be referred to The Listening Place in a number of ways. Most are referred by their partner, but The Listening Place also works with various charities including Maytree, Centrepoint, as well as the NHS through GPs and Lambeth hospital.
In order to change the current situation surrounding suicide and mental health, Anderson says we need to remove stigma and taboo.
“If people were allowed to share how awful they feel those feelings might lessen and abate,” she says. “For some people those feelings are chronic and go on for long periods of their life and it’s really important that we don’t stigmatise.”
Useful websites and helplines:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393 Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.) Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org