A day in the life of a SPIIOW volunteer

By Chris Cornford Mar 29, 2021

The last 12 months have been particularly challenging for Suicide Prevention & Intervention Isle of Wight (SPIIOW), an Island based charity which is active in the prevention and intervention of suicide.
The team consists of professionally trained volunteers available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Members are active every day, with their different shift patterns always ensuring SPIIOW have fully skilled personnel who are ready to respond to a person in need of help.
On average, SPIIOW attends between 50-55 call-outs a year, but since the beginning of this year they have already been called out 29 times.
A spokesman said: “We don’t have the data to say that the numbers have increased due to lockdown, but these figures do indicate that more people are in crisis at this time.
“It’s important people know that we are here and we are here to help.”
We take a look at a day in the life of Karen, a SPIIOW Team Leader.

“As I work full-time, my shifts are predominantly evenings and weekends; although dependent on my workload, I am available for calls constantly. At the start of a shift, I meet with my partner, radios are turned on and we log into the SPI portal to show who is on duty.
“I will usually speak with other SPIIOW team members during the day and always before the start of a shift, this is to see if there are any areas that need to be concentrated on. This may be due to concerns in that area or information that a person may be in the area, or that we have engaged with a person in the area and it is deemed high risk.
“As we are walking the areas or driving around, we are constantly looking out for people and considering their behaviour. It is easy to miss, dismiss and avoid a person due to the way they are acting and it is an automatic response for the SPI team to stop and engage with someone to check on their welfare.
“It is vital that when we are driving round, we observe people and, if we feel their behaviour is worrying, then we simply engage with them. It is always surprising how members of the public are happy to chat with us and are always thankful that we have taken the time to stop and speak with them.
“Community engagement is a big part of SPI’s role and we are a very visible presence regardless of intervention. This shows the public and other agencies that there are ‘boots on the ground’ and the public do find this reassuring.

“The safety of the team is most important and the radios are linked to a network which is shown on the laptop, meaning that we can be traced at all times by SPI base. This means that not only can they see where we are, they are able to direct us to allocated areas if they need to.

“We are in constant radio contact with base and as we move from one location to another, we record times on the portal for information and to indicate which areas have been covered.
“There is a lot of cross over between my SPI role and my day job and through my training and both employment and personal experience, I am well equipped to help people in crisis. Engaging with a person who is struggling and does not know which way to turn can be emotionally tough and exhausting. However, with our intervention and encouragement, we are able to help them through and direct them to agencies which can offer further support and assist them with a better understanding of how to manage their situation.
“My ability to engage with people helps and it is a rewarding role to be involved in; it has made me better understand the mental pressures of life. This has proved particularly so in the last year with us having to deal with the Covid restrictions, which have affected everyone in a different way. SPI has already been far busier this year engaging with individuals due to the difficulties of life.

“In line with the Team Leader role, I am also Police Liaison and Safeguarding Officer, which means that I am responsible for engaging with Police and completing Safeguarding forms that are then sent to Adult Social Services for their action.”

To contact SPIIOW in an emergency, phone 667247 or for information 987331. Visit the SPI IW website for more information and to make a donation.