Digital Volunteers are allowing us to support even more people, offering guidance and signposting via webchat and email and helping to run our online support groups. Digital Volunteers are fully trained, and have a call with a Beat Helpline adviser at the beginning and end of every volunteering shift. Read about why three of our current volunteers got involved below!
I have been a digital volunteer for Beat for just over six months now and I can honestly say it is one of the most amazing things that I have ever done. It is so rewarding to be able to empower individuals suffering from an eating disorder and help them take back control, and I come away from each shift feeling truly fulfilled and contented. Each shift brings something new and with it a new learning experience and opportunity and I feel as though I have developed a broad skill-set that has enabled me to empathetically and encouragingly communicate with individuals suffering from and affected by an eating disorder and help them get the appropriate support they need.
I take great pride is knowing that I am able to help, and support others. The training provided by Beat has also given me extensive knowledge into the nature of different eating disorders and how to appropriately and efficiently support someone suffering. What I love about Beat is that I always feel very supported as a volunteer and know that I could always go to my supervisor if I had any concerns or queries. The supervisors are also extremely encouraging, and I always finish a shift with confidence and as though my work has been extremely worthwhile. I feel as though even in the short time I have been volunteering that I have gained a lot of self-confidence and have had a lot of personal benefits from undertaking this role. Each week I look forward to my shift as it truly is such a rewarding experience.
As a psychology student, I was looking for experience that would help me within the psychology field and helping people with eating disorders certainly met that requirement. While I had no doubt that the work would be fulfilling, once I started with Beat it became so much more than that. Before volunteers are allowed to answer chats and emails, they go through dedicated training. The training in question has helped me greatly. Not only did it increase my understanding of eating disorders, it also enabled me to become more confident as a volunteer and stop worrying about saying the wrong thing.
In contemporary UK, there is certainly a problem with mental health services and accessibility to those mental health services. Many people who suffer from eating disorders simply do not know where to go, and this is where Beat comes in. By offering sufferers with advice, we can guide them to the road of recovery, and this is the wonderful thing about it. You truly feel like you are making a difference. Whether you are answering chats or emails, every bit of information provided can help a person live their life to the full.
While the UK certainly has a long way to go in terms of suitable mental health services for eating disorders, Beat certainly contributes to the fight for better mental healthcare. Now, anyone who suffers from an eating disorder has a signpost service where they can turn to for help. One step at a time, Beat will “beat” eating disorders.
I joined the Beat digital volunteer team at the beginning of this year, and it is such a powerful human experience! There is excellent and ongoing training, but at first being on your own answering emails and webchats feels a bit daunting. How can I be sure I am doing it right in this isolated setting (we all work remotely)? And will I be able to give the support the helpline users need, just through the use of a keyboard?
The truth is, we’re not isolated. Beat has a wonderful team of professional helpline advisers to guide and support you, enabling you to confidently do what you’re here for: providing support to people who need it. It’s like having a Dumbledore at your side: a wise and benevolent wizard, watching your back and giving you the strength to learn and grow.
On top of that, we also have a strong and caring virtual community of volunteers. As helpline advisers, we often remind the users how important it is to share their story with people who are going through similar experiences, whether they suffer from an eating disorder themselves or care for someone who does. Therefore, it is so powerful to put this in practice ourselves – exchanging tips, worries and success stories with other volunteers gives you so much strength and reassurance. Being part of a community, even when these conversations are done behind the computer screen, really helps.
But the most powerful part of volunteering with Beat is realising how much both volunteers and users get from exchanging through emails and webchats. Although you don’t get much information about the users (you rarely know their age, social background, possibly not even their gender) this doesn’t matter at all. Actually, it might even help! It allows you to leave all preconceptions behind and focus on what is truly important for them – their personal journey in fighting an eating disorder. And personally, it has changed the way I see people in my daily life as I get to understand how layered we all are and how much more can be said behind the anonymity of the keyboard.