A SAMARITANS volunteer has discovered she has spent the past four years sitting next to the man who talked her through her own suicide crisis.
Georgina Laurie, 60, contemplated taking her own life when she was at her lowest ebb, about seven years ago.
But a fateful phone conversation with a volunteer from the Samaritans was enough to help her change her mind, put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
The grandmother, from Rainham, Kent, signed up to the organisation to help those going through the same experience as she did.
But after four years sitting in the same booth next to long-time volunteer Des McCarthy, Georgina discovered it was he who had talked her through her troubles.
Georgina, has now been volunteering for four-and-a-half years, seven years after she nearly ended her life following the sudden death of her husband Dennis.
She said: ‘A year prior to that, I’d had a stroke so my whole life completely changed and I couldn’t cope with that.
‘I got really depressed, really down and I really couldn’t see there was a way forward in life for me.
‘I had no intention of ringing Samaritans and no intention of ringing and telling anybody.
‘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 judgment, there was no trying to change my mind.
‘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.’
About two-and-a-half years later, Georgina decided to join the Samaritans in Strood, which has around 60 volunteers.
She rose through the ranks to the point where she was mentoring others to get involved.
It was an evening shift, while working alongside the branch’s director Des, when she discovered he was the one who helped her.
She added: ‘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.
‘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 realised that it was Des I had spoken to.’
Georgina’s call could have been diverted to any of the Samaritans’ call centres in the UK, and the fact that Des was the call handler was completely random.
She said: ‘I couldn’t bring myself to say anything that night. 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.’
Des, a former police officer, doesn’t remember the incident — volunteers are trained to forget calls to rid themselves of the emotional burden.
He said: ‘I don’t have a stock of phrases. 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.’
He is stepping down in his role as director after three years and passing on the baton to Georgina, who will take over next month.
She said: ‘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.
‘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.’