What does the team do?
The Listening Place was set up in 2016 by a group of volunteers who recognised that there was little ongoing face-to-face support available for many people with chronic suicidal feelings. Volunteers are active throughout the organisation, from receptionists to the chief executive, and are split into three groups: Listening Volunteers, Supervising Volunteers and Helping Volunteers.
Listening Volunteers meet with three suicidal people for 55 minutes each on every shift. They use "active listening", giving visitors their complete attention but also the space to speak about their pain. Rather than prescribing solutions or diagnosing problems, they build relationships that allow visitors to open up, a role requiring good listening skills, empathy and emotional resilience. Visitors often have complex, distressing stories that they need to share.
Supervising Volunteers act as the point of contact for all Listening Volunteers, offering support, advice and guidance. Each Listening Volunteer will debrief their sessions with an SV who can provide emotional support alongside advice as needed. Helping Volunteers keep the wheels turning, carrying out a diverse range of tasks, including staffing reception.
What has it achieved?
In 2015, TLP was open for only two days a week; it is now open seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, with 400 trained volunteers regularly supporting more than 1,000 suicidal Londoners annually. Research has shown that visitors to TLP experience significant decreases in levels of distress and suicidal feelings.
Why did it win?
Volunteers outnumber paid positions at a ratio of 68 to one, saving the organisation about £400,000. The support provided by volunteers, who put themselves into challenging and potentially stressful situations daily, is helping to prevent people from taking their own lives.