Our online and telephone listening services are completely anonymous and confidential. This means we hide the identity of our listener volunteers to ensure our standards of confidentiality are maintained.
The following article has been written by one of our listening volunteers. Read their story.
My first time on an open line felt daunting. My hands were trembling and I tried to remind myself of what my colleague had just told me: “you’re nervous now but you’ll see how the training will kick in. So don’t worry, you’ll soon be wanting to be there for a caller.” I believed them because the training that they gave me was in depth and practical, yet so simple you could utilise it in an everyday conversation. I lift my hand to show them my trembling hand and to show that I am genuinely nervous. They smiled because everyone, at first, is nervous and I am not the first person to feel nervous on this seat. I’m listener number 77, so I’m the 77th nervous person to sit on this seat.
My first shift felt long because I was anticipating the phone to ring at any second. My mind was attentive and filled with anticipation: “It’s going to ring now. Okay, now. Not yet? Now! Now?” I looked at the phone intently because I knew eventually it would ring. I didn’t have a call on my first shift. Though it did come quite soon after and when I was speaking with the caller, the training did kick in but more importantly, you realise that you’re happy to be there for a caller and grateful that they had the courage to call. Though GibSams is a service, I have found that each listener has a high regard for the person on the line and though we are volunteers, in each call you just become a person in an honest conversation. I’m the 77th grateful person to have sat on the listener seat.
Why I joined GibSams
I joined GibSams for a number of reasons; some were personal and others were out of a sense of wanting to help others, from seeing a real need in Gibraltar. All my reasons come from an understanding that, during moments in our lives, an honest conversation is necessary but can be hard to come by. I have had hard moments in my life (as we all do) and have appreciated the loving friends I have had who I could call. However there have also been moments in my life, where I couldn’t reach a friend or speak to someone authentically about what was going on. A burden shared is a burden halved but to have a burden alone feels like a burden doubled. Our own burdens are usually personal and individual to us but all of us have felt the weight of a particular burden. I joined GibSams because I know the weight of a lingering burden as it doubles down on our thoughts, our mood, the way we interact with others, the way it wrestles the life out of us and I know that in those moments I would really have appreciated a listening ear. I joined GibSams to be a listening ear.
I found a home
In joining GibSams as a listener, I didn’t just find a way to serve others: I found a home and a passion. Even during my first few shifts, I begun making friends that I could sense would be there for the years to come. There’s a camaraderie about the team, we enjoy being together even though in public spaces or with friends, we might just ignore each other (for one of the core values of the team is confidentiality and that is for the caller and for ourselves). Our team is made up of people from many different walks of life but each one of them is aware of the importance of listening. Listening is a hard thing to do in our noisy and loud world and when I’m on shift, I have some of the most genuine, non-judgmental people listening to me.
A rewarding feeling
The same people listen to any caller and when they’re on a call, they want to hear the caller’s story and about how they feel. We aim to halve that burden and when you finish a call; the caller’s story, thoughts, feelings, and troubles stay with us. This commitment to confidentiality is the foundation of the listening team, we are there for each individual caller and we are there for each other. This is my home from home, my family apart from my family, but it is also where I do my real work. Though I enjoy my 9-5, there is a deeper motivation in taking on a shift: it is isn’t a job but a vocation. With each call, I know that what I’m doing is important and valuable because people are important and valuable. Every person, every story, every feeling is a world in itself to explore and to be trusted by the caller to join them on this adventure is an honour. It has been a gift to me to be a part of this team doing this work and I am also thankful to each caller who has called.
Whether we have had a multitude of calls or if we are having a particularly quiet week, I never regret signing up for a shift. The time given to this service is something I am continually glad to give because these are moments where we can look for hope in difficult places and you realise the immense beauty there can be in people. These are the moments that I will look back upon and, if anything, wish that I could have given more time to.
I have been with GibSams since just a few months after its inception and I’m looking forward to the time ahead. I have seen the service grow in its ability and its vision, it is a service that I am proud to be apart of. It is a service that you can help grow and it is a service that will grow you as a person. If you would like to be a part of this amazing team, please come and join us at our next Selection Day. I am listener number 77, I look forward to being one of a growing team.
This article was first published in the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper in 2021 as part of September’s Suicide Awareness Month.