From what started as a tiny seed with a tragic background, IMAlive has flourished into something that has truly changed lives in the last 11 years and has planted itself into the hearts of many people, both inside and outside of the organization. Every year, on April 12th, we reflect on how far we’ve come since our first chat all those years ago to now, where we are even more motivated, dedicated and bound together in the common goals of helping people and letting them celebrate another birthday, another graduation, another accomplishment.
For me as an individual, I’ve been a volunteer for as long as I have for a lot of different reasons. At the end of the day, my thought is that I can’t imagine not doing this. As if my life wouldn’t be as fulfilled, though I do have a life outside of it. It’s just part of my week and very much part of me; it’s the second thing that comes out of my mouth when people ask about me – “yeah, I’m suicide/crisis responder on Tuesdays”. It’d be strange if one day, I wouldn’t be able to recite that line.
This line of work doesn’t come easy but I love it. It’s a morbid subject, talking about suicide, addiction, orientation crisis, mental health, that can weigh on you heavily but it’s more rewarding than anything else I’ve done in my life. The longer I log in every week for a shift, the more I feel I’m giving back to my community and my fellow man.
Being involved for the better part of the last five years has certainly changed my life in countless ways. I still remember the aliases of the first chatters I spoke to, what we talked about, and closing my laptop at the end of that night. I remember being surprised at myself that I didn’t panic or quit after that first chat by the sheer intensity. I remember instinctively knowing that though the those were difficult, there were other people out there looking for help. Lastly, I remember how I wanted to be there for someone again and again and I still feel that way today.
As I did my own reflection, it led me to think of the possibility of what kind of person I could’ve been had I not even become a part of it and so it’s brought me here where we’re able to share how our volunteers feel in which IMAlive has also changed their life. We asked and what we got back was far better than we could imagine.
While several see how it makes the difference in their daily lives, like their jobs and interpersonal relationships with others,
-“Connections with other volunteers and the Supervisors! Feeling like if I ever need it I have the best safety net to turn to for advice. On the more pragmatic side, having volunteer experience, and training have both helped my resume immensely. The little feeling of light and hope when someone leaves a chat feeling better always brightens my days.”
-”Feeling like I’m doing something good, practicing active listening, recognizing non-ideal reactions to someone sharing personal things, feeling connected to people, lots of lovely coworkers.”
-”I’ve been able to use strategies learned through training and in chats at IMAlive to help people close to me and to use for myself to help when struggling with difficult life issues.”
-”I have learned and developed skills that I never had before and that will continue to help me be better in both my personal and professional lives for the rest of my life.”
-”The transferable skills I have gained through IMAlive are hugely beneficial in my day job working in pastoral care in a secondary school.”
others see the difference in their personal relationships with family and friends.
-”I find it incredibly gratifying to be able to connect with people during profoundly difficult times in their lives and offer them support and understanding that can hopefully make a positive difference to them.”
-”I can feel like I’m helping people all around the world and I feel better trained to help and talk to any of my friends or family going through a crisis.”
-”The training that IMAlive gave me has helped me work through my own crisis’ and to also become a more active listener for those family and friends (and strangers at times) that may reach out to me.”
-”I am more understanding when people are having difficulties, I have more compassion for my fellow humans, I am able to be a better listener to my teenage son.”
-”I can help other people; – I feel useful; – I can learn more and more with every chat.”
-”It always feels good to do something good for someone.”
And just like many see the change in themselves,
-“Keeping this short… 1. Have a better understanding of mental health. 2. Have more empathy for those going through a crisis. 3. It feels really good knowing that just by chatting with someone, I’ve quite possibly saved their life, or at least made them feel calmer. 4. IMAlive has quite simply made me a better person.”
-”IMAlive has allowed me to tap into a part of me that I didn’t realize was so strong. By giving back to others in need, I have created a new sense of self-compassion and self-love I wasn’t aware of before. It also helped me realize my true passion is being there and supporting others with their mental health journey.”
-”It taught me how to aid those in crisis and gave me the experience I needed to get into the top masters program of my choice. Because of this, I am now able to achieve my dream of becoming a therapist and helping others for a living.”
-”Volunteering with IMAlive has improved my life because of the crucial experience I have gained and have been given the uniquely amazing experience of knowing you have had an impact on bettering the lives of others.”
-”My life is better because I’m able to see the big picture in my own struggles and talk to myself like I would talk to someone else.”
-”I feel that what I do is helping. And I needed exactly that. In addition I think I became more open, less judgmental as a whole.”
-”I’ve become a better listener, grown my perspective, and feel like I’m making a difference.”
-”I am a better active listener to friends and those around me.”
the rest see it as a global, kindred purpose.
-”I truly feel fulfilled. The work can be hard, but that is the purpose we serve. I have never felt a similar feeling as a person who tells me thank you, and that I made a difference in their life, after beginning the chat considering ending their life. I cannot imagine my life without the work I do here at IMAlive.”
-“I learned to listen better and in a different way. I feel I have a purpose with the way I’m helping people. It feels like this is exactly where all my interests get together so I think I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I love to be part of this team, meeting some of the kindest and most caring people, I feel blessed.”
-”It’s so meaningful to know that you can make a difference in the life of someone else. This organization is so wonderful. I’m thankful they’ve allowed me to be a part.”
-”There is no better feeling, going about my daily life, knowing that today I have helped a person on the other side of the world through a crisis.”
-”I reflect on my own life more clearly, and I am able to feel like I am using my time constructively while possibly helping others.”
-”A sense of putting something positive out in the universe.”
No matter the how and why, the ripple of effect of that first tiny seed is undeniable. As a whole, we recognize and acknowledge who the roots are, strong and true, and understand how we are just the trunk that continues to grow upward into a tree that can withstand the tests of time and will be still be here far after we are.
Jana Stanfield, musician, composer, and motivational speaker, sang a lyric that surpassed not just a catchy tune but left a profound message in its wake as well; “I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.” IMAlive seems to be the picture definition of that message and thrives from it. Individually and collectively, the drive to help others is synonymous. If the organization has blossomed into a tree of goodness and hope in just half a decade, its path onward is clear and exact. Many of us hope to stay around to see what it can become and may we all be there to witness it and bask in its rare brilliancy.