The Liz Bentley Delivery Woman with Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans

Liz and Chad Varah
 Liz and Chad Varah founder of the Samaritans

This is the first of my new blog ‘The Liz Bentley Delivery Woman’. I’d been wracking my brains with what to do after ‘Liz Bentley waiting for the Tesco Delivery Man’ and then it became obvious. I write about my own experience anyway, so why not just admit that the blog is about me. Me, others in my life and my experiences.

My first blog features me with the late Mr Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans. I believe this photo was taken around 1990. I was a Samaritan for seven years including going into Brixton prison and working as a Samaritan youth project worker. I have newspaper clippings of me with a Mayor of somewhere and with Simon Hughes and the Samaritans but I can’t find them yet. What an inspiration Chad was.

In the photo we are in St. Stephen Wallbrook, the church where the priest and social activist Chad began his help line. A young girl in his parish committed suicide because she had begun her periods and feared she had an STD. That is the story that reminded me a bit of the film Carrie. As a psychotherapist, I know that when someone commits suicide it is far from straightforward, even with an explanatory suicide note. Always a reason for the reason and much beyond.

Chad clearly understood we needed more sex education and a place to talk when a person felt suicidal. He did it. One man setting up something almost too big now to cope with mental health let alone suicide as the NHS strips services so bare I can’t begin or indeed face writing about in this moment (some readers will know I worked in the NHS in Primary Care for twelve years up to 2014).

Chad apparently pulled away from his Samaritan organisation in 2004. He became disillusioned. It was no longer an emergency service, more of an emotional support for callers. We need both and the NHS provides so little. IAPT? What IAPT? Back in the early days of IAPT we were calling it DAPT. Decreasing Access to Psychological Therapies.

In my private practice usually by mid-December enquiries tail off and I get little interest again until around mid-January. This last year enquiries didn’t stop. On New Year’s Eve I had three messages from potential clients asking for help. I had to put a FULL sign up on my BACP directory entry (the only place that have my details). I was struggling to find the time or the energy to help the people contacting me to find alternative help when all my peers were also full-up and organisations I knew locally had and still have to my knowledge long waiting lists. One man I spoke with was told to stop calling the Samaritans because they couldn’t help him anymore. He had money to get help through his work’s EAP but just couldn’t find the right help. In the old days I would have directed him to the 24 hour Maudsely hospital where all would be seen by a specialised mental health team. Not now. Not anymore.

Why was I so interested in the Samaritans to become one of the youngest in 1987?

Is it really because I was at times more suicidal than my callers?

Is it because me and Dave McDonnell decided on a suicide pact age sixteen for when we were twenty-five?

Is it because my parent’s friend’s daughter killed herself but they didn’t talk about it but I knew, it had to be kept secret?

Is it because I came across the Samaritans in Southend when I was age sixteen and had been sexually assaulted in a house in the same street?

Is it because I watched the legendary film Harold and Maude when I was about sixteen?

Is it because my friend’s Dad who was the owner of Southend’s two sex shops took his own life?

Is it because I went to Glastonbury age seventeen and nearly went into the Samaritan tent because I was so unhappy and having a bad trip?

Is it because I nearly jumped out of a hotel room in Switzerland because my boyfriend was chatting up older girls in the hotel bar and I felt so alone?

Is it because I was diagnosed with MS in 1987 and did on some level feel I could relate to callers because I thought my life was pretty much over from the pictures in the tubes and the lack of support re my diagnoses?

Is it because a man on a Noel Edmonds Saturday live show didn’t attach his bungee during a live bungee jump?

Is it because after that I sought out the Dangerous Sports Society who had gone underground and had been banned from doing bungee jumping but I needed to do a bungee jump to know how it might feel?

Is it all of the above and more?

There is always a reason for a reason and a reason behind the reason and a reason underneath the reason, and sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a life is worth living as the concentration camp victim Maude shows the suicidal teenager Harold in Harold and Maude.

The film ends with the Cat Stevens song ‘If you Want to Sing Out Sing Out’ it is such a great song. Oh how I love that film.

My fave lyrics but they are all special….

‘If you want to be me be me, if you want to be you be you’

So in this new blog I’ll be me. Cause I want to be. I’ve got a photo of my bungee jump. I’ll go and see if I can dig it out for another blog …..

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