16-year-old Amy Feng has struggled with her mental health, but says she is empowered by helping others.
As a volunteer with Samaritans, an organization dedicated to preventing suicide and supporting those who have lost someone to suicide, Amy answers calls and texts from people in need through Samaritan’s helpline. Connecting with hundreds across the United States in the past year, the Lexington, Massachusetts, high school junior is reminding individuals they are not alone and is offering healing service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Volunteering is such a good way to give back to our communities and society. The people around us are so influential in our lives, and when we help them, we make our entire community better.
Describe your volunteerism with Samaritans.
If someone needs to talk about how they’re feeling, grieve the loss of a loved one to suicide or learn how to help others in crisis, Samaritans offers support. As a volunteer, I answer calls and occasional texts to the helpline every week for a couple hours. Sometimes the people may be suicidal, sometimes not, and I underwent training and offer emotional support through a technique called befriending. I also offer suicide prevention services. Samaritans are available 24/7, and more than 300 volunteers in total answer more than 80,000 calls, texts and chats on the helpline each year.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
A very rewarding moment was my very first ever call. The realization that I was talking to a real-life person who was in need of help that I was providing was very shocking and also very rewarding. Because mental health is something I myself have struggled with, it’s very empowering to know that I am helping other people in a way that I wished would have been provided to me.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
We should all give back to society in ways that matter to us. [Volunteering is] what our communities and society depend on. A lot of times it feels, when one person is volunteering, there’s no noticeable effect, but when we all do a little to help change the world, that’s what actually happens.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Ultimately, I want people to do what they care about and are passionate about. I volunteer for Samaritans because mental health is something I’m really passionate about, and it affects me personally. When people do things that are important to them, it’s so much more meaningful and effective.
Name a volunteer that inspires you.
There’s another Samaritans volunteer who I worked with during my training. She’d been with the organization for over five years, and it was inspiring to see that she had stuck with this for so long.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
When you’re not busy volunteering or in school, what do you do for fun?
I’m also a mental health advocate with Kaiya, an organization that provides resources for teens to support themselves and their peers with mental health. I’m also a big reader, and I like writing. I wrote a critical essay about mental health that I recently received an award for.
How can readers help?
For more information on how you can help, please visit the Samaritans website.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Amy Feng? Find local volunteer opportunities.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.