In today’s expat interview with people who have moved to Spain we talk to Val Parker principally about her work with the Costa Blanca Samaritans and the issues people face in Spain.
Are you living in Spain and feeling suicidal or depressed, here are options in order to find the help you need if you are suffering any mental health issues.
This is a great interview highlighting a really important organisation. The Costa Blanca Samaritans are of course based on the Costa Blanca but they take calls from people in need of help from all over Spain.
I’ve never asked this before, but if you can help promote this article it would be appreciated as I believe this is a very important cause. How? Place a link to this article on the web somewhere: on your blog, as a blog comment, website, social bookmark, Facebook, Twitter or on a forum. Try linking with the words ‘Costa Blanca Samaritans’ if you can, rather than saying ‘click here’.
Val thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I guess first I want to know who you are and how you have come to live in Spain?
Well I moved to Spain eight years ago with my partner who was a golf professional and we came here to retire. It was the first time in my life I hadn’t worked and after some time I considered part-time work and that was when I saw the opening at Costa Blanca Samaritans. Obviously it was an English-speaking position and I was used to working with people my whole life, although more in a business environment.
This was a paid position or unpaid?
It was unpaid working as a listening volunteer. I went through the training which was very in depth and very structured. Obviously you have to be in a good place yourself, because in listening to other people’s troubles, you could become affected yourself if you were not in the right frame of mind and it could be too much to take on board.
I then became a trainer and I’ve now become the branch director. This involves many aspects from the physical running of the office to overseeing the volunteers.
Val, for anyone thinking they might like to contact you and help, what can you say, I mean how have you found it?
I’d actually say it is very enjoyable, maybe that isn’t quite the right word, perhaps satisfying sums it up best. You are helping people with their problems, which feels good of course and the people you work with are naturally like-minded people. No, it is really very satisfying.
Val, most people will be familiar with the name of the Samaritans but how did it start here in Spain?
We operate here in Spain as a stand-alone branch. It began because Steven Ashley, a psychotherapist saw a need for a support system here and he had previous worked as a Samaritan. Together with other like-minded people it took over three years to pass through the Spanish legal system because they didn’t understand exactly how or what we did. They thought we were promoting suicide! But finally we got the permission and are set up as a 100% not for profit organisation.
So when did the Costa Blanca Samaritans start and how is it set up?
With volunteers for the Samaritans there is no need for any previous experience whatsoever, so you don’t need to have been a counsellor or anything like that.
First there is a general chat, then an in-depth interview, then a group interview. At this stage people tend to realise if there is any issues that they are tender about and would have difficulty listening to someone else talking about it.
We have two volunteers on duty from 8pm to 12pm which is great because after a difficult call you have your colleague there to talk to. We are always looking to add people to our volunteer list because of course being Spain, people do tend to come and go more than most places.
Volunteers must commit to 2 shifts (8pm-12pm) once a month and either one Saturday or Sunday every two months.
We had a series of coffee mornings to promote the Samaritans in Spain and we found many people came along because they wanted to talk.
What can people call you about? Is any problem too trivial that they shouldn’t be ringing you?
People tend to naturally associate the Samaritans with calls from people considering suicide but we want to prevent people getting to that point. It can be absolutely anything from a mother who has had a very difficult day to people with marriage difficulties. What may not seem a problem to you can be a major problem to someone else. No problem is too small. Often people have a series of problems and the one they are calling about is the straw that broke the camels back.
We are there to listen. We don’t offer advice because we are not legal experts or counsellors but often this is the first time people have verbalised their problems and issues. This often helps them see things much more clearly and they are able to then deal with them or seek additional help.
Is telephoning the Samaritans the only way people can contact you?
At the moment yes, but there are plans in place to offer email support. This should be up and running during the first part of the year.
What issues are there with regard to Spain as compared to say for example the United Kingdom?
Well the population here is much older of course, so we get fewer calls about drugs and alcohol. With an older population it may be questions about wheelchairs or needing to talk about bereavement. We get many calls because people are unsure how the Spanish system works i.e. the paperwork and burocracy and they are unsure what to do.
Having said that people have moved here to set up a new life and so they tend to be quite feisty and have more get-up-and-go. But in times of need they just need to talk through their emotional problems and then that can help them see forward.
We also get I would say about 20% of calls from English-speaking people such as Germans and Dutch. Until our formation, Spain was one of the few countries that did not have a Samaritans type organisation. So other nationalities are familiar with the concept, it isn’t just a UK thing.
Is there anything else you want to say to the readers that we maybe have not covered?
I just want to raise the awareness and brand of the Costa Blanca Samaritans. We need to constantly be in the public eye which is why this interview you are doing is so good.
I think many people don’t take notice because they have no need at the current time but there could come a time when you need to call us. No problem is too small, whatever you are going through, we are there to go through it with you.
Thanks Val, I think this interview and article could be so valuable to many of the readers of our website and also our newsletter. I’m very aware of the many problems involved with moving to Spain and living and settling into a new life in Spain.
Personally I have learned a lot of things I didn’t know. Perhaps the biggest thing I have got out of this is to say to people, don’t feel embarrassed or awkward. Don’t think that your problems or issues are not important enough – just pick up the phone. The volunteers are just that, volunteers. They are there to help and willing to listen so do use the service. More information is below.
You Talk – We Listen
Telephone Support during Emotional Difficulties
CBS offers a completely confidential, free, telephoned-based emotional support service
How we can help you
However big or small your problem is, and whether you are suicidal or not, Costa Blanca Samaritans provide free, totally confidential emotional support by telephone to any English speaker of any age or nationality, anywhere in Spain.
From 8pm to 12 midnight every evening, trained volunteers are ready to listen to you. We will not judge you or tell you what to do but simply listen, whatever your issue, and support you as you explore your feelings about what troubles you, allowing you to decide how you might go forward.
How you can get involved
• Train to become a Listening Volunteer • Become a Support Volunteer • Hold a Fund raising Event • Donate Money • Spread the Word
How to Contact us
Call FREEPHONE 900 525 100
Email for more Info: email@example.com
Interested in Joining: firstname.lastname@example.org
CBS is registered with Generalitat Valenciana as 100% not-for-profit organization under No. CV-01-042952-A and is staffed entirely by volunteers
NIF No. – G54341466 Registered Office – The Mail Box 185, Calle Alhelies, 1. Local 2-4. Orihuela Costa, 03189 Orihuela, Alicante.
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