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05 Dec 2022

Listening and Cycling: Anthony’s Volunteer Story

For the past 30 years, SANE has provided support to anyone who needs us through our helpline. This could not have been possible without our highly trained team of volunteers, who provide not just a listening ear, but a pillar of support for anyone affected by mental illness.

Dedicated volunteer, Anthony, shares his volunteering story at SANE, from listening to callers to an epic Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle journey with a couple of friends, from which they raised nearly £8,000 for SANE. 

Paying kindness back

I’ve been volunteering with SANE since 2019, shortly after I retired from work. After doing Textcare and emails for a while, I moved onto telephone support during the pandemic and SANEline since we came back into the office earlier in 2022.

The motivation for volunteering has its roots in my own mental health issues – I’ve suffered with periodic depressive episodes for more than 30 years now. I’ve been lucky in getting great understanding and support from the people around me, and volunteering with SANE is a way to try and pay a bit of that back. 

David Bramley cycling

A promise of support

Talking to people on the helpline is a responsibility: we make a promise to provide emotional support and we do our best to keep it by leaving callers feeling at least a little better by the end of every call. Each call is different, but they always involve listening hard and making it as clear as you can you understand and accept what’s been told to you. 

One of the most important things I took from our training is how hard it can be to avoid letting your own picture of the world get in the way of listening carefully. And that my own background of mental health difficulties is a double-edged sword – it motivates me and helps me be relatively comfortable talking to people with mental health problems, but there’s a risk of being too quick to project my own experiences onto things I hear on the helpline. We get great help from our SANEline shift leads and others who support what we do as volunteers – one thing I’ve enjoyed about SANE right from day one is how carefully and thoughtfully the whole system operates.

The privilege of listening

Talking to people on the helpline is also a privilege. However sociable and networked we are, we all tend to live in our bubbles and struggle to understand how very different other people’s lives can be. Talking on the helpline to a huge range of people who’ll share with you and trust you with some of their deepest thoughts is a special thing. 

David Bramley cycling with friends

In September 2022, I set out to do something a bit different for SANE. Along with two retired friends, I cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats – a total distance around 1050 miles over 15 days, including 12+ miles of height gain along the way. We had a great time ambling up the country and enjoying the journey, but more significantly, we were delighted to raise nearly £8,000 for SANE.

Further reading

Volunteer with us – Join Anthony and find out more about volunteering at SANE.

International Volunteer’s Day – Learn more about International Volunteer’s Day here.

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