Sophie Andrews: The best way to help is often just to listen
Sophie Andrews is the CEO of The Silver Line, a 24-hour phone line that provides social connectivity for isolated senior citizens in the UK and receives approximately 1,500 calls per day. Full bio
Double-click the English transcript below to play the video.
on the railway station platform.
when the station toilets were opened,
and made her way over to them.
for three months, not three days.
just started the bleeding again.
she would go to a hospital.
to cover the blood.
but was past caring.
she could think of doing.
and into a phone box nearby.
You sound very upset.
How old are you?
to make you so upset?
Every day I wake up and wish I was dead.
I want to do it myself.
ask the girl about herself.
there were lots of silences.
felt so comforting.
that made that call was me.
sleeping rough on the streets in London.
by my father and his friends.
I was suicidal.
I was 12 and absolutely desperate.
my mother had deserted me,
at the hands of my father and his friends
helpline in the UK
desperate or suicidal.
around the clock every day of the year,
when I was most desperate,
found my story, they never showed it.
and listened without judgment.
encouraged me to get help;
in every other aspect of my life.
was probably the only area
some control in my life.
with what had happened.
rather than a victim.
to become a volunteer.
that had really saved my life.
in an empathetic way
listening to me without judgment
to give me a job,
it's an odd word to use,
to think of anyone
of that listening ear
at that desperate time
as a Samaritan.
I was asked to perform many roles.
the organization for three years.
from that vulnerable caller
for the organization
screwed up as a caller,
by professionalizing everything we do,
that that simple act of listening
across all areas of life.
no one wanted to talk about.
victims were often judged.
and no one really wanted to talk about it.
surround a different issue.
that's out there.
is to talk about loneliness.
have profound health impacts.
on your own well-being.
the mortality rates,
higher levels of depression,
with alcohol abuse or smoking cigarettes.
that smoking 15 cigarettes.
with higher levels of dementia.
of Alzheimer's disease.
that live alone who are not lonely.
that maybe has dementia
a very good, clear definition
of relationships that we have
I've ever received
in an empathetic way.
I'm speaking to a room of professionals,
giving up their time
in a confidential way,
life-changing effect for me.
that really stayed with me.
in my teenage years,
wondering if I'd even live the next day.
listening to me stayed with me.
with what had happened,
in a transforming way
volunteering with Samaritans.
and the new stigma of loneliness,
helpline in the UK for older people,
lonely and isolated older people.
we've taken 1.5 million calls.
based on the feedback we get every day.
for a friendly chat,
about local services.
because they're suicidal.
because they're reporting abuse.
may have simply just given up on life.
setting up a helpline.
of chief exec, but in the early days,
the best meetings ever in my career --
listening to older people
making weekly friendship calls
that like the written word,
and we write pen-pal letters
receiving a letter.
something called Silver Circles --
the word "silver" here --
talk about shared interests.
play musical instruments
desperation, loneliness and isolation.
you would also hear laughter.
the wonderful lives of older people
just a snippet of one of our calls.
you're through to the Silver Line.
the telephone is, you know?
invention, isn't it?
when I was a little girl,
a phone call to somebody,
and have your phone call.
just whenever you fancied.
to the absolute essentials.
in my dressing gown still,
isn't it wonderful?
we might receive at our helpline.
as part of the family.
are now helping older people
that Samaritans has helped me.
they're listening confidentially
without giving advice?
an older person would say,
"Thank you for your advice,"
and we haven't interrupted.
maybe we have given advice.
a survey at The Silver Line
what they thought of the service.
came back and said,
in the sport cricket a wicketkeeper,
in baseball, a catcher.
and I'm talking American.
when I get home.
she had that catcher,
and needing a catcher
by putting something back
and becoming part of our family.
talking about my own personal experience.
I often say that I've been lucky.
at every stage of my life,
alongside me at the right time
in myself, which has been so important.
at some point in their lives.
in the phone box, over 30 years ago.
the power of a simple human connection.
the power to save a life.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERSophie Andrews - Author, helpline advocate
Sophie Andrews is the CEO of The Silver Line, a 24-hour phone line that provides social connectivity for isolated senior citizens in the UK and receives approximately 1,500 calls per day.
Why you should listen
Sophie Andrews's harrowing childhood experiences, documented in her 2009 autobiography, Scarred, inspired her to become a local volunteer for the suicide prevention line Samaritans over 25 years ago, and she later served as the organization's national chairman for three years. Andrews makes regular appearances as a motivational speaker before a variety of audiences, giving talks about her life experiences and the importance of charity work.
Sophie Andrews | Speaker | TED.com