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Samaritans Awareness Day: How are you?

I don’t remember when I first heard about Samaritans, but I was young. My mum first trained as a Samaritan in 1990. She had a few breaks when she had me and my two younger brothers, went back, and then spent 7 years working in Wandsworth Prison training inmates to be “Listeners” (think ‘internal Samaritans’ who other inmates can talk to).

Samaritans provides emotional support to anyone in the UK experiencing distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide. It’s 24/7 lifeline for many and is largely run by volunteers.

My mum volunteered at Samaritans – on and off – for 15 years. I remember her coming back after night shifts and sleeping until mid-morning, and sometimes crying after. When I asked my mum why she did it for so long, she said she felt like she was doing something meaningful, that she got to meet and work with all sorts of lovely people, and that it taught her to listen. And really listen.

But how often do we really listen? Or even ask the question “how are you?” and then leave space for the answer? Listening is a skill that makes us more aware, enables us to become critical thinkers, and gives us space to learn. More than that, it arms you with empathy – which is at the heart of a good listener.

Being a good listener is something we can all do, and you don’t have to be a Samaritan to be a good Samaritan every day. Whether at home, on your commute, at work, or on your phone taking the time to check in with a friend. The important thing is: be empathetic, don’t be judgemental, don’t always try and fix things or find a solution, be patient, be kind, and listen, listen, listen.

If you watch one thing today, watch this

If you ask one thing, ask this: “How are you?”

If you can be one thing, be kind.

Holly Malthouse, Senior Account Director, Corporate Reputation