In a strange twist of fate, this suicide hotline volunteer only recently discovered that she has spent the last four years working next to the man who talked her through her own suicidal crisis.
60-year-old Georgina Laurie contemplated taking her own life 7 years ago after enduring the sudden death of her husband Dennis.
“A year prior to that, I’d had a stroke, so my whole life completely changed and I couldn’t cope with that,” recalls Laurie. “I got really depressed, really down and I really couldn’t see there was a way forward in life for me.
Thankfully, a fateful phone conversation with a volunteer from Samaritans—an international nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicide—was enough to help her change her mind, put one foot in front of the other, and keep going.
“I had no intention of ringing Samaritans and no intention of ringing and telling anybody,” says Laurie. “I was in bed, I was coughing and I dribbled water and I went into my bedside cabinet to get a tissue and believe it or not, a Samaritans card flicked out.
“I hadn’t really considered them at all and I thought ‘I will give them a call’ and it wasn’t to be talked out of what I was doing—I wanted the universe to know what I was doing. I didn’t leave a note or anything.
“So I phoned up and this gentleman answered and for an hour listened to me wittering on, and I know I was talking about the difficulties in the family since my husband died, and it was really difficult.
“I told him what I was going to do. He didn’t judge me; there was no judgement, there was no trying to change my mind,” she continued. “I felt completely that I could trust him and open up. For an hour I was wittering away, but still determined to go through with what I had planned.
“I decided I had chatted enough and I said ‘I’m going to go now’ and at that point the Samaritan said to me on the phone, ‘I would just like to say one thing; this all sounds totally exhausting.’
“And I hadn’t thought about that and I thought, ‘Yeah, you’re right, I am exhausted; I am emotionally and physically exhausted’ and then I put the phone down.
“I started to think, ‘if I am exhausted, if I really am that mentally and emotionally exhausted, am I making the right decision?’ and it was enough just to get me thinking.”
The experience eventually inspired the English grandmother from Kent to begin volunteering for the organization so she could help those going through the same kind of despair.
About two and a half years after the phone call, Laurie decided to join the Samaritans branch in Strood, which has around 60 volunteers. She has since risen through the ranks of the organization and begun mentoring other volunteers on how they can get involved.
She has now spent 4 and a half years working in a booth alongside branch director and long-time volunteer Des McCarthy—although she only discovered it was he who had talked her through her troubles.
Laurie had been in the middle of an evening shift when she suddenly had her epiphany over the identity of her anonymous savior.
“It was about five months ago. I was training one of my mentees and my mentee was on the phone, so I had more time to listen to what Des was saying, albeit subconsciously,” recalls Laurie. “I suddenly heard Des say, ‘it must have been exhausting for you’ and it was like being transferred back all those years, I couldn’t believe it.
“It was really one of those serendipitous moments and I realized that it was Des I had spoken to.
“I couldn’t bring myself to say anything that night,” she added. “We were actually at another volunteer’s birthday party and I had confided in another volunteer and he said ‘here’s an ideal opportunity to tell him’, and it just organically came out.”
Laurie’s call could have been diverted to any of the Samaritans’ call centers in the UK—and the fact that McCarthy was the call handler was completely random.
“I don’t have a stock of phrases,” McCarthy said about the seemingly innocuous comment. “Some people will have a comfort in using a stock of phrases when they begin, but I don’t think I ever had. It’s not something I say very often at all.”
HeMcCarthy, a former police officer, is stepping down in his role as director after three years and passing on the baton to Laurie, who will take over next month.
“It just seems like a natural little process. It was so humbling to be asked and I think it’s a nice all-round story about someone who’s been in despair who did call Samaritans,” said Laurie. “Des didn’t try and talk me out of doing anything. All he did was do what we say on the tin; we listen, and listening is just enough sometimes.”
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