Dean Sanders, branch director of South Devon Samaritans:
The third Monday in January is widely believed to be the most difficult day of the year.
The highs of Christmas and New Year celebrations are a fading memory, it's cold and daylight is limited, for some payday still may seem like a long way off and to top it all, it’s Monday!
There’s no actual scientific evidence to support this and it’s highly likely that the term ‘Blue Monday’ was invented by a marketing executive to sell holidays.
Show the target audience their pain and then offer a simple path to pleasure, it’s not a new idea, but it’s really quite effective.
I’m sure that more than a few politicians use similar tactics.
Replacing ‘Blue Monday’ with ‘Brew Monday’, Samaritans have put a positive spin on the day to remind everyone that 'there’s always time for a cuppa and a catch up'.
It’s a simple but effective message as, in reality, feeling low doesn’t just effect people in January or on a random Monday.
Equally, right now is always the best time to reach out to someone you know who could be feeling low. I’m sure you know who they are...
That’s why a couple of Mondays ago - it didn’t have to be the third Monday in January - South Devon Samaritans were at Newton Abbot Railway Station from 7am to spread our simple message.
This was our first Outreach event in nearly two years and something that there was plenty of enthusiasm for among our volunteers.
We are part of the 20,000-strong network of Listening Volunteers over 201 branches nationwide and we also have a remit to do our best to make a real difference in our local area through various proactive initiatives, including this one.
More on that in the future.
Sixteen of our amazing volunteers braved the cold to speak to commuters young and old, first and foremost offering emotional support to anybody in need but also reminding them to catch up with loved ones.
We offered ‘listening tips’ and gave out our completely free telephone number 116123, which has Listening Volunteers available around the clock - 24/7.
There was no better place to do this activity. GWR have funded Samaritans Outreach for many years and are very supportive, from the executives to the station managers and staff.
Quite soon after arriving at the station I learnt my first lesson about Samaritans’ Outreach events - you can’t blow up balloons wearing a facemask!
I retreated to outside the ticket barrier and continued, realising that it would have been a good idea to have blown them up the previous night and put them into a bin liner in the back of my car.
Now, that isn’t the most important thing that I’ve learnt so far, seven weeks into my three-year term as branch director of South Devon Samaritans.
I’ve also learnt that our Samaritans branch appearing to run itself is an illusion.
In fact, it’s down to the dedication of our volunteers and a myriad of ‘teams’ that run things down to the most minute detail, things that simply wouldn’t happen without them.
Organising the Brew Monday event was no exception.
Being there on the day was the icing on the cake but of course ‘being there’ is the reason behind everything that we do and the driving force. It’s what motivates us all.
The day was hugely worthwhile. We connected with more than 1,300 people over 10 hours, most were short conversations, some were longer contacts and at least three were much more meaningful interactions with people in real distress.
For many of the young people that we spoke to, it was the first time that they had heard of Samaritans. That felt like a real win.
Added to this was the cumulative awareness effect of the positive press that Samaritans received as a direct result of the event, from my 10-minute Radio Devon interview on the preceding Saturday morning prime-time slot, to various publications on and offline, not least, this one - thank you, Jim!
If you, or someone you know needs to talk, we here to listen. Call free on 116123 anytime, alternatively you can email email@example.com. If you’re interested in volunteering with us or you would like to donate go to www.samaritans.org/branches/torquay
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