Listening with empathy, care and concern – Solidarity in a Crisis
“When someone invites you into their life to share their distress and you know you have helped them feel better about their situation you feel good.”
This is the view of Manju who has been working as a Peer Supporter for Solidarity in a Crisis (SiaC) since the service began operating in 2012. SiaC provides out of hours, phone support to people in Lambeth experiencing a mental health crisis. All SiaC Peer Supporters have lived experience and Manju believes that this personal knowledge plays an important part in enabling her and her colleagues to offer a very a different kind of mental health service.
“I think lived experience is crucial, it makes you more accepting of people’s circumstances and more sensitive to their needs. Also you are more likely to have the vocabulary, tools and skills required to talk someone through a situation if you have been through something similar yourself.”
In addition to relying on personal experience, all the Peer Supporters receive extensive training and ongoing support from the management team and their peers.
Manju explains: “The initial training was excellent; the presentation we received from a Leeds survivor-led service influenced our overall approach. We don’t ask people about their previous mental health history or any diagnosis, we keep in the moment and concentrate on dealing with the immediate situation. Anything that has happened before is irrelevant during a crisis and we like to respect people’s privacy.
“Equally, Tamara Russell’s Mindfulness course was incredible in opening my eyes to how to listen to people and it also showed us how important it is to look after our own mental health after supporting someone through a difficult situation. From my point of view this is the biggest challenge of the job – self-care and making sure my own recovery is not jeopardised by my exposure to other people’s distress. Fortunately we have a lot of support in place in the form of regular team meetings and individual supervision as well as good opportunities for training and a flexible approach to rotas.”
People who call Solidarity in a Crisis are often isolated and have no one else to turn to. The service provides an important support role throughout the weekend when most mental health services are not operating.
“Research has shown that these are the times of the week when people are most likely experience a crisis,” explains Manju. “Often we are the first person a caller has spoken to in several days and we listen with empathy and care, allowing people to offload their thoughts and feelings. When a person feels heard they usually start to feel better.”
Monday – Friday: 6.00pm – 12.00 midnight
Saturday & Sunday: 12.00 midday – 12.00 midnight
Freephone: 0300 123 1922
Or text on: 07595864103
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow Solidarity in a Crisis on Twitter @siac_solidarity and on Facebook.