THE SAMARITANS in Shetland are beginning a new recruitment drive in response to an increase in their workload.
An open night is being held at the Shetland Samaritans centre at Charlotte Street in Lerwick on Thursday (12 May) with the aim of attracting more volunteers.
The local branch is part of the UK-wide charity, which exists to give support to people who are feeling lonely, distressed and even suicidal.
Until now the local centre has mainly answered phone calls and emails from distressed people and spoken face-to-face with those who have called in during open hours.
However, it is now also answering texts and is planning to increase the open hours to met the increasing demand for its services across the country.
Branch chairwoman Edith Leask says there is mainly a need for volunteers to answer phones, as well as for support staff.
“We’re very busy at the moment,” she says, “taking calls from people all over Britain. We even get emails from overseas sometimes.
“Quite often we can be a vital, life-saving service – people really do need us when things get too much for them and they can’t cope.
“Here in Shetland we want to do all we can to help people who are distressed no matter where they are, so we desperately need more people to help us with that work.”
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is invited to go to the open evening between 6.30pm and 8pm, where they can meet existing volunteers and learn more about how they can join.
No experience is needed as everyone who signs up gets a full course of training.
There is a selection process, and successful applicants will then work their way through eight training modules before being allowed anywhere near the phones or emails.
Their first six duties will be mentored by an experienced volunteer and they will be on probation for the following 20 weeks.
Edith says volunteers find the work rewarding and valuable.
“None of our volunteers ever have to face difficult problems on their own,” she says. “We have a close-knit team and every one of us supports their colleagues. We all know it’s valuable work.
“More and more people are suffering from depression or distress and we’re often the last resort they’ll turn to for help. All we want to do is help them cope.”