What is a telephone befriender?
A telephone befriender is one of our trained volunteers who will give you a weekly call to see how you are doing. They will be happy to listen to you speak about how you are feeling (good or bad), what challenges you are facing and how you are coping. Many of the people working and volunteering for Changes have lived experience of mental health issues themselves.
At Changes we know not everyone feels comfortable attending one of our online groups, not everyone has the technology, and not everyone is able to join an in person group. Our befriending service hopes to fill this gap for people living in the County of Bristol, matching volunteers with members for an informal weekly phone chat.
They are non-judgemental, and everything you say to them is confidential, unless they have significant concerns about your safety (or someone else’s) and then they will contact our team. For more information on confidentiality, please see below.
It is important to note that befriending is not a crisis service, counselling or advice service. For now the befriending service is self referral only which means you will need to sign up as a member if you would like to have a weekly call with a befriender.
Please note: we are only able to offer telephone befriending for people living in the County of Bristol who are aged 18 or over.
How do I get a befriender?
To be linked up with a befriender you need to be a member first. If you are not already a member, please sign up here.
If you are already a member and have not yet let us know that you would like a befriender, please email us at email@example.com and one of us will get back to you as soon as possible. There may be a waiting list.
How does it work?
Once you have completed your application form, you will be added to the befriending waiting list. Once you are at the top of the list, a member of our team will contact you to arrange an initial informal chat. This will be a chance to get to know a bit more about you and to talk about your mental health. This is a very informal service, we are not a crisis team and we do not offer counselling or therapy. Therefore, if we feel that telephone befriending is not right for you, we may signpost you to more appropriate services. If you are in crisis, this page may help you find more immediate and specialised support.
If we are able to offer you a befriender, we will pair you with a volunteer and let you know their name so you know who to expect. We will then pass your number and first name onto your befriender (they will not know your second name) and they will call you within a week of receiving your details. In this first call, you can briefly introduce yourselves and agree on a good time for both of you to speak each week.
What can I talk about?
You can talk about whatever is on your mind. There are no rules and no problem is too big or small for them to listen to.
As we mentioned before, it is an informal service. Our volunteers are volunteers, they are not trained counsellors, so while many of them will have lived experience of their own mental health struggles, they are not “mental health professionals”. They are peers, and although they may be able to tell you what things have helped them in the past, this is not an advice line. They are also not a crisis service.
What if we run out of things to say?
That’s absolutely fine!
If one week you only want to speak for 5 minutes, that is completely fine and your befriender will not mind. We all have days when we are more able to talk than others. If you would just like to sit quietly with them at the other end of the phone and say nothing, that is also fine! It is your time to be supported. Don’t feel bad to let them know what would be best for you.
What if I can’t stop talking?
Don’t worry, your befriender will give you a gentle reminder of the time remaining.
How confidential is the call?
Your full name is only known to Changes Bristol staff, and your befriender will only have your first name and your phone number.
We want you to feel safe to talk about any of your thoughts and feelings with your befriender, however difficult or scary they may be. Therefore, anything you say within the call will be kept in strict confidence. There are however, some cases when your befriender may need to speak to a member of staff. These exceptions to confidentiality include:
- If they are concerned that you may be a danger to yourself or someone else. In this circumstance your befriender would ask permission to try and find help for you (informed consent). If you did not agree, they would contact the staff team who would help to decide whether or not to get help without your consent.
- If they have a concern over child protection or terrorism (statute law dictates that these must be reported to the authorities)
- If they are looking for guidance on other services that may be able to support you.
- If they have concerns you are experiencing some kind of abuse (domestic, financial, psychological/emotional, organisational, neglect, self-neglect, discriminatory, physical, modern slavery or sexual abuse).
- If they feel they need some support themselves: each volunteer has a supervisor at Changes who supports them with their own wellbeing.
How can I become a befriender?
If you’d like to be a befriender to someone else, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and Alessandra or another member of the team will get back to you about upcoming training.
Barton Hill Settlement
41-43 Ducie Road