Date posted: 04/03/2021 5 min read

Meet the CA volunteering in mental health: Renu Thomas CA

Listening is Renu Thomas CA’s most important skill as a volunteer at suicide prevention service Samaritans, Wellington.

In Brief

  • Renu Thomas CA volunteers at Samaritans, a confidential mental health service.
  • Her instinct in the beginning was to try to solve people’s problems but she learnt most callers just want someone to listen.
  • Her volunteer work has reminded her that the world is a big and complex place.

As told to Hannah Tattersall

A couple of years ago, I was in a good place career-wise but felt like I didn’t really do anything outside my work ‘bubble’ or for my wider community. At the same time, I was hearing more stories of suicide through my network and in the media.

A friend who works in mental health recommended Samaritans. They are a non-religious, non-judgemental, confidential service with branches across the world. They provide a listening ear for anyone who needs it. You don’t need to be an experienced counsellor; anyone willing to spare a couple of hours a week can do it.

Renu Thomas CAPicture: Renu Thomas CA.

“You don’t need to be an experienced counsellor; anyone willing to spare a couple of hours a week can do it.”
Renu Thomas CA, Chorus

You get the whole range of phone calls, from the lonely in rest homes, to isolated farmers; abuse and sexual assault victims; people dealing with grief and loss; to the student or professional who’s just feeling overwhelmed.

In 2020, call numbers increased with more intense feelings of loneliness and general anxiety across the population.

My instinct at the beginning was to try to solve people’s problems. That’s what you do at work. You try to work out the most efficient solution to reach an outcome and get things done. But actually that approach is not helpful. Callers often just want to feel heard and not judged, and to be given a sounding board to work out their next steps.

I do like that it’s different from work [Renu is group reporting manager at Chorus]. In a corporate environment you get to a point where you only deal with other well-paid, well-educated professionals who have confidence and a stable roof over their head.

It’s important to me to remember the world is a big and complex place; that most people are facing demons and struggles every single day. And that I have a lot to be grateful for.

NZ: samaritans.org.nz, 0800 72 66 66
AU: thesamaritans.org.au, 135 247

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