The idea behind offering digital-only support is to accommodate the communication preferences of anyone in the UK that is struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic. According to a Samaritans spokesman, there is a “need for people to have a variety of options to reach out.”
The pilot program, which works out of the Anglia Ruskin Samaritans Hub at the university’s Cambridge campus, will ensure that trained volunteers are present to offer support to people via a written online chat forum. Students enrolled in mental health nursing, paramedic science, and social work courses will be eligible for professional placements with the Samaritans charity.
“I started volunteering with Samaritans when I was in my mid-20s,” says Anglia Ruskin Samaritans Hub service director Colin Hill, “and now, as a senior Samaritans volunteer for the past five years, it’s an honor to lead our very first university hub.”
He goes on to explain that the pandemic has made it even more difficult for people to find help, so increasing people’s options is extremely important. “That’s why it’s vital we test and develop our online chat pilot so eventually Samaritans can offer more digital, written-word choices for those who prefer communicating in that way,” he adds.
“ARU provides its students with a comprehensive range of mental health and wellbeing support. This new initiative allows our students to give something back,” says Professor Nigel Harrison, ARU pro-vice-chancellor and dean of the Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine, and Social Care.
For now, volunteer and placement opportunities are only available at the ARU Cambridge campus, but the organization hopes to roll out more opportunities at the Chelmsford campus later this year.