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01 Jun 2022

Volunteering with SANE: How you can make a difference

SANEline was founded in 1992 and from the outset, volunteers had a key role in providing support to anyone affected by mental illness, and those with nowhere else to turn.

Our dedicated and trained team of volunteers come from all walks of life and bring with them their own experiences, knowledge and skills. They are passionate about supporting people with mental illnesses and help us to deliver a service that has continued to grow in demand over the years.

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The volunteering journey is very personal to everyone, and reasons for volunteering are hugely varied. What volunteers have in common is their empathy and compassion, and willingness to give up their time on a weekly basis. In return, all of our volunteers learn a lot about themselves and gain new skills during their time with us. Many of our volunteers go on to have careers within mental health.

Throughout the pandemic and despite restrictions and difficult working environments we have continued to maintain a 7-day service. Now, as we once again open up our full SANEline services, we are looking to add to our amazing team of volunteers.

If this sounds like something you would like to get involved in and you’d like to find out a bit more, please see our Volunteering page and get in touch if you have any questions.

What our volunteers say

Every year we ask our volunteer team what volunteering means to them – here are some things our volunteers had to say:

“It’s an honour to sit with someone who is struggling or in crisis. Working as SANEline volunteers, we aren’t about solving anything, or even giving advice. Instead, we get a chance to be present, letting a caller know we ‘see’ them, and (one hopes) helping them recognise they’re not alone. It’s really gratifying, to be honest.”

– Senior SANE Volunteer

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“Volunteering with SANE gives me a sense of using time for something worthwhile and valuable; there are people who gain some comfort and support when they call in at times of distress or worry, and we are there for them to be heard.”

– SANE Volunteer

“I am really looking forward to the helpline reopening. Being a SANE volunteer was really meaningful to me and I know it might be difficult at first, I also know it is something that makes a difference to callers.”

– Returning SANE Volunteer

“Even if I don’t make it through the training and become a volunteer, I would just like to say thank you for all the new tools and skills I have learnt. I will be taking these with me through my life in my relationships with friends and family.”

– New SANE Volunteer

“Volunteering with SANE has been an anchor in my life over the past years. Offering my time to support people with their mental health and knowing that this can make a difference in someone’s life has become one of my most valuable experiences.

“Over the years, I have learned a lot about myself and the world around me. I feel very lucky to be a part of our caring volunteer community and to have the support of the wonderful SANE Team. For me, weekly volunteering is not just another task, but a gift of stability in my often chaotic life.

“SANE is truly a place of compassion and support for everyone.”

– SANE Volunteer

“As a volunteer for SANE for the last 12 years I know that I have gained as much from the experience as I hope I have given. Since my initial training, and with opportunities to further develop my knowledge, I have learnt so much about mental health disorders which, in retirement, was an exciting new area of learning for me.

“The majority of my work at SANE has been my weekly commitment to SANEline. This involves me in ‘being there’ for individuals and supporting them when they are struggling with the effects of their mental health on their ability to function and on their relationships. Feelings that often leave them confused, lost, angry and lonely.

“At SANEline we also give support to friends and family members who are often worried for their loved one and want to discuss how best they can help or where they might point their friend/relative for professional help.

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“I believe we are all hard-wired to help others and volunteering provides me with a sense of purpose. I have been humbled by how people cope with their mental health disorders and empathise with them about the stress that that can bring them. I try to gently share any knowledge I might have gained that could be helpful at that moment. I know volunteering benefits me and I am convinced it probably protects my own mental health too.”

– Senior SANE Volunteer

“When I started volunteering at SANEline, I had little idea of what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted to try to turn something painful (my own experiences of grief, depression, loss) into something that might help others and maybe myself too in the process.

“I knew that volunteering could be positive, constructive and I’d probably meet some nice people. However, I’m not sure I realised then what it might mean to be part of creating this safe space. A space that allows people from all walks of life to trust a stranger enough to speak so openly about their mental health, how they really feel – in a way we so rarely do with anyone.

“Many years later I still volunteer for SANE. I’ve been given the training, ongoing support and flexibility to be able to sustain it. Every call is different, we never know what to expect, how each conversation will evolve. Some calls go well, inevitably some don’t. The content can be confronting, challenging, upsetting, but there can be such reward when you hear the relief in someone’s voice when they feel able to open up.

“No matter what else is going on for me, or in the world, every shift provides perspective, grounding, food for thought, purpose.

“I’ve seen how meaningful it is if you can be truly present while the other person allows themselves to be vulnerable enough to set aside the mask we all wear in some way in our daily lives. I’ve learned to always remember the training but also balance this with being myself too, to trust my own instincts. I’ve seen that we often manage to calm someone in distress and that beyond that, every now and then, there is a priceless moment of real connection that may resonate much longer.

“I started volunteering with the hope that I could make even a very small difference to someone else, partly because that person had been me. I’ve carried on because I’ve seen the impact it can have, the intrinsic value in the listening and supporting without trying to fix.

“It could be any of us needing this support at some point – as volunteers we know there is no them and us with mental health. To anyone thinking about volunteering but unsure about the nature of the work I’d say give it a go, it may be for you or it may not, but you’ll learn something about yourself and others either way.”

– Senior SANE Volunteer


See also Dorrie: My Volunteer Story where one SANE volunteer writes about her journey at SANE and how you can make a difference.


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