When Elaine Mottram retired from her job in the NHS, she was at a loss about where to spend her time.
Volunteering was always on the cards, but where that would be done was a decision she had to make.
She remembered a place where an old friend had donated their time, somewhere which helped some of the most vulnerable in society.
Elaine, who retired as a physiotherapist in 2008, decided to become a Samaritan.
The helpline, whose Aberdeen branch is based in Dee Street, try and bring comfort to people who are feeling distressed, even to the point of suicide.
Elaine, 67, is now the director of the Samaritans in Aberdeen and she says a lack of volunteers has unfortunately meant some shifts have to go unstaffed.
She said: “If we can’t get enough volunteers, we can’t open as many shifts.
“So that impacts on the waiting times for callers.
“It also puts a greater load on the branches that are open.
“There’s a real human cost of not having enough volunteers, without a doubt.”
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As part of the system, callers in Aberdeen are sent to the Dee Street branch first, and bounced to another service elsewhere if the branch is closed or busy.
Elaine, of Airyhall, said the most important thing a volunteer can be is open-minded.
She said: “You have to be able to have empathy for their position and not make a judgement about them.
“You need to be able to put yourself in their shoes.
“You also have to be able to listen really carefully and be able to help the person find their own solutions.
“That might be through summarising what they’ve said, or perhaps carefully asking questions to find out what they think on a topic.”
Diversity is key for the charity, with volunteers needed from different backgrounds to better understand the circumstances of people who contact them.
Elaine said: “We respond to a very diverse group of callers – people of any gender, race religion or sexual orientation.
“We ideally need our volunteers to reflect that population.
“We want our volunteers to represent the callers and we want to attract a group of volunteers to reflect that.”
According to Elaine, becoming a “Sam” was a rewarding experience – and the support network from other volunteers helped to get her through.
Each volunteer will need to cover one three-hour shift a week, as well as a night shift every month, where they will encounter some of the most vulnerable callers.
Despite nationwide recognition of the vital work they do, the Samaritans still suffer from misconceptions – chief among them being that their hotline is only for people who are suicidal.
Elaine said: “I think that’s still a misconception. Increasingly, we want to support people to stop them from getting to that position.”
Candidates will be put through a multi-week training course which doubles as an assessment, with an interview at the end of the process to determine their fitness for the work.
If accepted, staff will go through a six-week supervised period before becoming fully fledged volunteers.
To get involved with the Samaritans, visit www.volunteer.samaritans.org and follow the links to become a listening volunteer.