Samaritans is a charitable organisation established with the aim of providing emotional support to individuals in the UK and Ireland who may be at risk of suicide, are struggling to cope, or dealing with any kind of emotional distress. Although the name of the organisation does come from a biblical parable, Samaritans is a non-religious, secular organisation open to anyone who requires emotional help.
Samaritans can be contacted in several ways, including by telephone free from any phone, by email, by letter, or by visiting a local branch. Samaritans also runs numerous campaigns to highlight the issues it helps to deal with and raise awareness of emotional health and the services available to help people deal with any emotional issues they may be experiencing.
Advertising creative Ajab Samrai has worked on several campaigns designed to raise awareness of worthy causes, including highlighting suicide for Samaritans.
In the Beginning
While Samaritans has been maintained as a secular organisation, it does have its roots with a Christian vicar, Chad Varah. Chad wanted to use his experience in counselling parishioners to help more people deal with suicidal thoughts. In the infographic attachment, you can see some statistics on suicide in the UK taken from research by Samaritans.
In his own words, the helpline service began as simply a man with a telephone who was willing to listen. That helpline, launched on the 2nd of November 1953, has since grown into a national organisation with more than 20,000 volunteers and 200 physical branches across the UK and Ireland.
Chad increasingly found that the volunteers he had to sit with people as they were waiting for their appointment for counselling were often able to offer as much help to individuals as he himself could. Just four months after the launch, Chad officially handed helpline duties over to volunteers.
As a charitable organisation, Samaritans relies solely on volunteers to provide support for anyone who needs it. There are currently more than 20,000 volunteers working for Samaritans. However, all volunteers are given training before they begin working for Samaritans and that training is ongoing throughout their time volunteering. Typically, a listening volunteer will complete 10 three-hour sessions prior to their first shift and following that will be paired with a more experienced volunteer for several months. Mentoring and support services are available continually for all volunteer listeners.
In 2017, there were more than 17,000 individuals acting as trained listening volunteers for Samaritans. There were a further 2,000 volunteers working in the 201 Samaritans branches throughout the UK and Ireland and more than 1,700 working as trained listeners in prisons. You can find out more about how to become a Samaritans listening volunteer in the embedded short video.
Suicide Prevention and Emotional Support
While Samaritans began life as a suicide prevention helpline, today’s organisation provides a wide range of emotional support and people do not have to be feeling suicidal to access this. Samaritans receives on average one phone call every six seconds.
In 2014, nearly four of every five phone calls came from people who were not experiencing suicidal thoughts but who did need emotional support. Samaritans does not denounce suicide but provide a non-judgemental, empathetic listening ear with the aim of helping people explore their problems and work round the issues they need to deal with. Samaritans partners with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, which you can learn more about in the PDF attachment.