Working together to reduce suicide

Samaritans vision is that fewer people die by suicide. Our new strategy explains our plans to improve our service and to make them free to everyone by 2021.

You can read an overview of our new strategy here and in the interactive PDF below. Simply click on it to get started, or you can download it here.

The new Samaritans strategy

Our new strategy Working together to reduce suicide began in April 2015. You can read an overview of it here:

What we stand for

Samaritans' vision is that fewer people die by suicide. To bring this about, we make a big impact on the world around us: 

  • We reduce the feelings of distress and crisis that can lead to suicide.
  • We increase access to support for people in distress and crisis.
  • We reduce the risk of suicide in specific settings and vulnerable groups.
  • We influence governments and other agencies to take action to reduce suicide.

Why what we do matters

The scale
In 2013 alone, 6,233 people took their own lives in the UK and 475 in the ROI. That is 18 suicides a day and for every one of these people, there are friends, partners, children, relatives, carers and colleagues left behind. Around 17% of people say they have had thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, 6% that they have attempted suicide and 5% confirm that they have self-harmed.

The urgency
After a decade of declining suicide rates, we appear to be seeing a significant increase in the overall suicide rate in the UK and there have also been increases in ROI. The incidence of self-harm appears to be rising and is one of the highest in Europe. In general, suicide increases in times of recession and economic hardship.

The financial impact
For the family and friends of those who die by suicide, the experience is enormously painful, leading to a whole range of complex and difficult emotions.  The wider social cost can be estimated in financial terms, and for those of working age has been calculated as £1.67m (at 2009 prices). This includes monetary value attached to the pain and suffering of relatives and reduced quality of life, lost output (both waged and unwaged) and direct costs to services (NHS, police) and relatives.

How we make a difference

1. We reduce feelings of distress and crisis that can lead to suicide
Our approach to supporting people has been developed over time specifically for those in distress and experiencing suicidal feelings. We believe that through our support people feel calmer, understood and less alone, gain perspective and see new ways of dealing with their situation.

2. We reduce the risk of suicide in specific settings and vulnerable groups
Certain groups of people have heightened vulnerability to suicide and certain settings contribute to increased suicide risk; these require a tailored range of interventions. We offer expertise and collaborate with organisations to develop interventions for specific settings and vulnerable groups.

3. We increase access to support for people in distress and crisis
We do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for people to contact us for help. People can talk to us without telling us who they are and be reassured that we won’t pass on their information to anyone else or intervene against their wishes.

4. We influence governments and other agencies to take action that reduces suicide
There are many factors which contribute to suicide, including the conditions of society and communities, public health and the provision of health and social care. We work closely with policy-makers, decision-makers and practitioners to strengthen action which addresses the causes of suicide.

Through these four areas, Samaritans is taking action against the multiple causes of suicide and at various levels: providing help for individuals; addressing suicide risk in particular groups and settings; and influencing policymakers and practitioners to bring about change in mental health, social care and other services and in public policy.

The building blocks to achieve our vision

Let's make it better

1. Improve the quality and consistency of our services by making sure that:

  • All Samaritans users experience a service which is responsive to their needs.
  • Quality assurance processes are consistently implemented across all our services and projects.
  • Samaritans’ training, volunteer management and roles are designed in such a way as to ensure that we have the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles.

2. Improve access to Samaritans services by making sure that:

  • All helpline services are free to callers.
  • Awareness-raising campaigns are based on evidence of need, targeted at vulnerable groups and delivered at a local and national level.
  • Email, SMS and instant messaging support is provided in an integrated way.
  • Emotional support is provided outside of branch in new targeted settings.
  • People get through to a volunteer every time they try to contact us.
  • Support is provided in targeted settings for those affected by a suicide.

3. Have stronger and more effective external influence and connections with partners by making sure that:

  • We have strong referral relationships with partner agencies working with vulnerable groups (especially men in middle years, people in socio-economic deprivation and people with mental health problems).
  • Vulnerable people online are recognised, offered support and have less chance of coming into contact with harmful online content.
  • We have strong effective relationships locally and nationally in order to influence the content and implementation of local and national suicide prevention policies and plans.
  • We understand the interests of our callers and use this knowledge to increase help-seeking and influence public policy and practice.

4. Improve collection and application of evidence so that:

  • We are better able to demonstrate our approach to supporting people, the benefits this provides and its contribution to reducing suicide.
  • We understand the needs and profile of the different groups of people who use our services and what they get out of those services.
  • We apply existing evidence around ‘what works’ to improve and develop our support services.
  • We evaluate the impact of Samaritans’ strategy.

A better way of working together

There are three key areas on which we will focus to make sure that we are able to work together effectively to deliver our strategy.  We will:

  • Support and engage our people more effectively
  • Evolve our structure and governance
  • Maximise and mobilise our financial resources