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Alanna Donnellan, Daragh Bradshaw and Jennifer McMahon from the University of Limerick conducted research among 157 volunteers from two text message support services; Shout and Irish service Text About It. The study tested associations between identification with a crisis support organisation, well-being outcomes, perceptions of social-support, and self-efficacy in remote text-based services.

Results indicated a ‘serial mediated indirect effect’ in that the more strongly a respondent identified as a volunteer, the more strongly one could predict that they would perceive that they had social support (i.e. the perception and actuality that one is cared for, has assistance available from other people, and that one is part of a supportive social network.)

In addition, social support predicted higher levels of self-efficacy, or a volunteer’s belief and confidence in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal. This resulted in increased levels of compassion satisfaction among volunteers, along with decreased levels of burnout, and less secondary traumatic stress.

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These findings contrast with previous research into telephone-, rather than text-based support services, which found that telephone-based crisis support line volunteers are at risk of poor mental wellbeing.

While the study has limitations, it validates Mental Health Innovations' training approach and the support we give our Shout Volunteers by highlighting the importance of creating and maintaining a strong group identity amongst volunteers. This means that their mental wellbeing can be protected and enhanced as they engage in the invaluable work of supporting people in crisis.

It also chimes with our findings from surveying our Shout Volunteers. In our 2023 survey, 85% of Shout Volunteers say they had gained mental health knowledge and skills that they can use in their lives beyond Shout and 84% said the role provided them with a sense of accomplishment. 68% said it gave them a greater sense of purpose in life, more than half said they had a greater sense of wellbeing and one in five said it made them feel less anxious in their lives.

Read more about the learning and development paths we offer Shout Volunteers here.

Willems et al., 2020: Kitchingman, Wilson, Caputi, Wilson, & Woodward, 2017

Read the research here.