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Samaritans answer more calls for help

THE local branch of the Samaritans is busier than it has ever been in its 33-year history.

The Ennis and Clare Samaritans answered 52,376 calls in 12 months and details of the increase in the use of the Samaritans service throughout the country were revealed in the 2014-15 Impact Report covering the organisation’s work in Ireland.

According to the report, more than 652,166 calls for help were answered by Samaritans volunteers across the country in the last year. The Ennis and Clare branch answered on average more than 140 calls a day.

Calls to the Samaritans have gone up by a massive 60% since Samaritans launched a free to caller number 116-123 in March 2014. The launch of the free number is due to a partnership between the Samaritans, telecommunications service providers, the Government and the National Office for Suicide Prevention.

Angharad Harding, director of the Ennis and Clare Samaritans, said, “The increase in calls show that many people in Ireland are struggling to cope and need a place to turn for support. Removing the barrier of cost has made it easier for people to access support, as they no longer have to worry about call charges.

“It is important that people know that they can talk to us at any time of the day or night about whatever is getting to them. We are here for anyone who needs to talk. It doesn’t matter what kind of problem our callers have; however big or small it may seem compared to the problems other people have.”

Ms Harding added, “We desperately need volunteers and we are recruiting. We will have information nights on January 12 and 14 in the branch. We are always glad to have new volunteers and they are all trained to have the listening skills to be there for callers. The branch very much appreciates the support of the people of Clare in running the service; without them we couldn’t do it.”

More than 95% of contacts made in Ireland were by telephone, although other options are also available, according to the Impact report.

“While the majority of contacts to Samaritans are by telephone, our service is also available by email, letter, text message and through face-to-face support in our branches throughout the country.

“During the 12 months from October 2014 to September 2015, a total of 8,610 people received face-to-face support from Samaritans.

“Within the same reporting period, 13,722 emails and 7,705 SMS contacts were supported. This means that, in total, Samaritans answered 652,166 calls for help in Ireland in the 12 months. This is an increase of 29% in contacts compared to the previous 12-month period.”

The busiest days of the week were Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while the service was busiest between 8pm and midnight.

Robert McBride, regional director of the Samaritans in Ireland, said, “I have been truly humbled by the experiences that our callers have shared with me as a Samaritans volunteer.

“It is a huge privilege to listen to someone relate, perhaps for the first time, thoughts or fears that may have troubled them for years. It is a great responsibility to respond appropriately to those confidences – supporting a person but never disempowering them.

“It has also been humbling to visit branches throughout the island and witness the enthusiasm and dedication of so many volunteers within the organisation.

“Our branches rely on their own fundraising activities to keep their branch running and many of the people you see on the street holding a Samaritans collection box may have also completed several hours active listening that week.

By Owen Ryan

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