Chapter 1: Foreword

We share this strategy in uncertain times. In recent years the world has become, for many, a very worrying place. Anyone, at any time, can find themselves needing emotional support.

But growing awareness of issues such as discrimination, climate change, the negative effects of social media and global conflict, alongside the issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic and increased cost of living, have added new burdens – many of which affect some people more than others because of inequality within society. These can all have ongoing ripple effects which may last for a long time and increase the risk of suicide, owing to poorer mental and physical wellbeing, bereavement, isolation, economic hardship and stretched public services. Our purpose, to be there for people who are struggling to cope and in times of crisis, is as vital as ever.

To achieve our vision that fewer people die by suicide, we must do more to broaden our impact in society. Samaritans is not only for the moment of crisis – we’re taking action to prevent the crisis. In the coming five years, as well as continually striving to adapt, expand and improve our unique 24-hour listening service by phone, online chat, email, letter, face to face and through our Welsh language service, we will grow our campaigning and lobbying work, including helping our branches to influence local decision-making.

As we work for change, Samaritans needs to make changes too. The charity turns 70 in 2023 and it’s our job to ensure we adapt and innovate, to provide a safe space for all of those who will need us in the coming decades.

We must make sure that anyone struggling with difficult and overwhelming emotions knows that our volunteers are here, ready to listen.

With 22,000 amazing volunteers in over 200 branches and locations across the UK and Ireland, we are already at the heart of local communities, working with schools, workplaces, railways, prisons and hospitals, delivering training, providing support and helping people turn their lives around as part of our suicide prevention work. But there is more that we need to do. We must make sure that anyone struggling with difficult and overwhelming emotions knows that our volunteers are here, ready to listen, by actively going out into more and diverse communities and letting people know that they can talk to us the way they want to, in the way that feels most comfortable for them at any time of the day or night. We will do more to offer support and tools, resources and services online that help people look after their own mental and emotional health and wellbeing, understand more about suicide and support others. And we will continue to encourage, promote and celebrate those moments of connection between people that can protect and save lives.

To address the causes of suicide and self-harm, we must take more meaningful action to challenge discrimination and injustice, hand in hand with people affected by both. We have worked closely with our volunteers, staff, people who’ve had suicidal thoughts or been affected by suicide, supporters and partner organisations to shape a strategy that builds on the charity’s solid foundations and everything we’ve learned over the years.

We invite you to join us on our journey, as we continue to react to a changing world and innovate to keep up with new demands and opportunities.

Whether as part of our amazing family of volunteers and staff, or as one of the wonderful individualsor organisations who support us, together we can continue providing emotional support to people when they need it most.

All I wanted, I suppose, was just space to talk, and the volunteer gave me the space. She helped me listen to myself. And that was quite powerful for me at the time.

Glenice, Samaritans volunteer, talking about a time when she reached out to Samaritans for support

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