Consoling the inconsolable: Victim Support volunteer finds satisfaction in work

This is the latest article in the Helping Hands series profiling North Shore volunteers

For the past five years, Rob has provided emotional support to people on the day their lives have "changed forever".

For the past five years, Rob has provided emotional support to people on the day their lives have "changed forever".

When he enters a home where a young person has just committed suicide, Rob says his job is to be a presence of support more than a voice.

"Particularly suicide witnesses are confused, they're trying in their own minds to put this into context," Rob says.

"Yes we see it on the TV, we read about it in the newspapers, but suddenly it's here, and it gets very personal.

"Really, it's not so much about a conversation as just having somebody there on their side. And that is probably the best we can offer, saying, 'Hey you're not alone, we are there for you.' "

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As a volunteer with Victim Support, entering scenes as challenging and horrific as this is what Rob has signed up for.

His role is to provide emotional support and assistance to people who have been victims of crime, or whose family or friends have been involved in an accident.

He is not police, nor a psychologist, but someone there available to talk, if it is wanted.

"Victims to us are not the ones who are deceased, it's the families," Rob says.

"The police do the informing and the official side. We're just there to support the families or whoever else is there at the time. We have two roles, basically, one is to listen, and two to find experts, as necessary.

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"A lot of people think we go in and make a fuss and all this, we don't, especially with blokes. And this is probably my forte, the stiff upper lip strong silent type. They are probably more traumatised at times than young ladies bursting into tears."

Rob's decision to volunteer for Victim Support came after retiring from a long career as a marine surveyor in the UK within the oil industry.

He would do insurance inspections on ships involved in oil accidents at sea.

"I was familiar with, should we say, disasters and the associated death, but the roles I was in didn't lend me to be very involved with the community," Rob says.

After volunteering with the coastguard, initially, to keep busy during retirement, Rob heard about Victim Support and its chronic lack of male volunteers.

"When I retired, Victim Support was something I found out people found difficult, and I found that as a challenge," he says.

"This was personal. This was dealing with individuals who are ordinary people, like ourselves, going about their daily life and suddenly it's all changed forever."

After five years of volunteering with Victim Support, Rob says he is still committed to the role - despite it remaining difficult.

"You know people say, do you enjoy it and you think 'What? No' but there's a satisfaction with helping others, a trite phrase it may be, but that is there."

Victim Support are constantly in need of volunteers to provide practical and emotional support to victims of crime and trauma. Full training is provided.

If you are interested in volunteering, call Sarah on 09 424 6515 or visit their website at


Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email

0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day.

Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).


 - Stuff

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