Q&A: Samaritans volunteer Sabeeha tells Enable where you can find support

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic we have been urged to look after our physical health, but your mental health is just as important. We speak to Sabeeha, a volunteer at Samaritans Blackburn branch.

Sabeeha is a secondary school English teacher and has been a Samaritans volunteer for just over six years. Sabeeha joined Samaritans because she wanted to help make a difference and be there for people who are struggling.

When did you first decide to volunteer with Samaritans?

I was married for sixteen years and one day my husband decided to leave. The day he left I booked a shift at Samaritans. I wanted to immerse myself in other people’s problems which in turn gave me perspective on my own.

During this period in my life, I found that it wasn’t just me supporting our callers, but by being there for others, it helped me through the challenges I was facing and it just shows how powerful human connection is. 

What is the Talk to Us campaign which has been taking place throughout July?

Talk To Us is an awareness campaign that looks to spread the message that Samaritans’ volunteers are available to listen to anyone who is struggling – day or night, every day of the year. The campaign also highlights the importance of talking and how it can help put things into perspective when you are finding things tough and help you to feel more positive about the future. 

To celebrate the event this year, myself and a number of Samaritans’ volunteers took part in a special film to highlight how important it is to talk and check in on each other during these difficult times and give an insight into what it’s been like to volunteer for Samaritans during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has created so much uncertainty, but if there is one thing that people can be certain of, is that we are still here to listen.

As part of the film, we discussed our collective experiences, how we were coping and how talking has become just as important for many of us, as it has been for our callers. 

What is your advice for people who have been experiencing bad mental health during the coronavirus pandemic? 

It’s important to acknowledge that you have a right to feel certain emotions; acknowledge them, talk about them and seek support from either a friend, family member or someone you can trust. If there is nobody that will give you that space to communicate, Samaritans’ volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to support you. We are here to listen and have time for you.  

If someone is feeling anxious about new rules and restrictions, what advice would you give them? 

It’s OK to feel nervous, scared or uncertain. It’s OK to experience these emotions and your feelings are completely valid. It’s important to communicate how you are feeling and acknowledge what your emotions are.

Sometimes callers say to me that they are going to let me go now because they think I may have other people with more important issues, but I always reassure them that they are just as important, their concerns and fears are just as important as anyone else’s. 

In your words, why should people seek support during this time? 

It’s imperative that people know that we’re still here to support them through this time of uncertainty. Talking doesn’t eliminate the issues, but it does help you manage your emotions if you are feeling overwhelmed. 

If you are finding things tough you can talk to us, day or night, for free on 116 123 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org.uk. For more information and resources, visit www.samaritans.org.