Samaritans’ research ethics policy

Samaritans attaches considerable importance to the maintenance of high ethical standards and best practice in all research projects conducted by Samaritans staff and volunteers, or on behalf of the organisation by external research agencies and consultants. For this reason, any work which involves contacting vulnerable people, current or past callers, volunteers and members of the public requires due consideration regarding ethical best practice and data protection legislation.

It is important to note that Samaritans research activity is separate from the provision of emotional support. It is thus governed by the Research Ethics Policy, to align with professional and ethical standards in research, and not by Samaritans’ operational or service policies.

1. Application of the policy

1.1. Research that involves contacting and collating information from current or past callers, volunteers and members of the public carried out by;

1.1.1. Samaritans staff or volunteers

1.1.2. External researchers that are supported or commissioned by Samaritans to carry out research either in partnership with Samaritans or on their behalf

1.2. Research that involves secondary analysis of individual-level data sources, including Samaritans operational and/or eLog data carried out by;

1.2.1. Samaritans staff or volunteers

1.2.2 External researchers that are supported or commissioned by Samaritans to conduct secondary data analysis either in partnership with Samaritans or on their behalf

1.3. Monitoring of activity and operations carried out by staff and volunteers must adhere to Samaritans Confidentiality Policy (see appendix 1) and Data Protection Guidelines (see SamaritansNet), but does not have to adhere to this Research Ethics policy, as this is not classified as research. Included under this heading are (for example):

1.3.1. Operational caller support and management information

1.3.2. Operational telephony and eLog monitoring data

1.3.3. Quality and complaints monitoring data

1.3.4. Data monitoring for internal projects.

2. Ensuring the well-being of participants

2.1. The physical, social and psychological well-being of participants must not be adversely affected by participating in research. If there is a risk of distress to the participant due to the nature of the research and how it is being conducted, then sufficient precautions should be taken to minimise this risk and support provided should the need arise.  

2.2. All participants must be able to understand any information provided so that they can make an informed choice about participation. Participants must be able to provide informed consent and fit the following criteria:

2.2.1.     The motivations of participants for taking part in the research are varied, and participants should be advised that research is distinct from emotional support and should be dissuaded from using the research process for these purposes.

2.2.2.     Participants should not be at risk of serious harm at the recruitment stage or data collection stage of the research.  

2.2.3.    Participants should be made aware of the levels of confidentiality and anonymity related to the project, and what this means in practice and any wider implications this may have.

2.3. Participants must be provided with information about appropriate support organisations they can use if they experience distress during or after taking part in research. If a researcher is concerned about the well-being of a participant, signposting or referrals processes must be in place for the researcher to adopt.

2.4. Researchers must develop inclusion and exclusion criteria to help define the sample. They also need to address several key questions when embarking on a new research project. These include:

1.     What are the possible risks and costs to participants, in terms of time, inconvenience, distress, or intrusions on privacy?

2.     How will participants be made to feel comfortable to share their experiences with the researcher? How will a relationship of trust be established?

3.     How will the project deal with participants who become distressed, who wish to withdraw from the project, or who disclose risk of serious harm to themselves or others?

4.     What are the implications of paying or rewarding participants?

5.     What issues are raised by informed consent? Is any additional information or advice needed?

6.     Is the research sensitive to any current needs and issues relevant to the research population?

7.      Are there any concerns arising from the nature of the research or subject matter? For example, research on suicide-related internet usage may need to consider what content or information on suicide is provided to participants; research related to suicide methods must consider what detail related to methods should be excluded from publications.

8.     Have diversity and inclusion issues been considered and addressed?

9.     Are the findings of the research to be published in formats that are accessible to research participants and, if necessary, wider social groups?

10.   What consideration has been given to these key questions when making decisions about research questions, data collection, or the interpretation and dissemination of research findings?

2.5. Any surveys sent to research participants from Samaritans must include introductory text that explains our approach to research ethics and data protection (see appendix 2).

3. Informed consent

3.1. Participants must be fully informed about the project before agreeing to take part. The information should be written and presented in an accessible format (information sheet, website), enabling participants to fully understand what is expected of them, the amount of time they will have to commit and any potential negative or distressing outcomes. Participants must be able to ask any additional questions they may have before providing consent, to ensure they are able to make an informed choice on whether they want to take part in the study.

3.2. Participants must be aware that it is their choice whether they take part, and must not feel pressured to participate. Participants must be assured that if they agree to take part, or not, this will not affect future support available from Samaritans.

3.3. Participants must be aware that they can withdraw at any stage, without needing to give a reason.

3.4. Participants must provide written, verbal or suitable evidence of consent that they agree to take part in the research. If verbal consent is obtained this needs to be documented by the person taking consent and stored in the same way as other records of consent. (see appendix 3 for an example of a consent form).

3.5. If the research sample comprises of participants who are aged under 16 years, the parents/carers of the participants should be fully informed and provide written consent for their child to take part. Individual written consent of the young person is also required. Exceptions may arise where, for example, a school may act in loco parentis and provide written permission for all pupils to participate though provide parents with the choice of ‘opting-out’.

3.6. All research that involves children and young people must adhere to any legislative requirements regarding child protection in the country in which it is carried out. For cross-nation projects involving vulnerable populations and participants who may need on-going support, it may be necessary to gather independent and ethical advice if more than one legal framework surrounding data protection or child protection applies.

3.7. Informed consent is an on-going process, especially when participants are service users with mental health problems, memory problems, or a learning difficulty. Recalling information may be difficult for some participants and therefore it is important to reaffirm key information relevant to the research in a clear and accessible way on regular occasions, and agree informed consent at all data collections stages of the research.

4. Confidentiality and anonymity

4.1. Participants must be fully informed about the level of confidentiality and anonymity possible for the project they are taking part in. A full explanation of what this means in practice should be given. For example:

  • A participant involved in a case study will not be able to maintain confidentiality and anonymity if they agree to be involved in a media event. The making of audio, video or photographic records of research participants can also remove confidentiality and anonymity, requiring these participants to provide informed consent in relation to the making of the material and how it will be accessed and used.
  • For group work, clarification is required that any information shared must remain confidential within that group and must not be passed on to any third party. It is essential to inform group participants about the identities of those who will be attending the group so they are aware who they will be discussing and sharing information with, e.g. staff and third parties.

4.2. Confidential information can only be passed on to relevant parties if a participant has disclosed that they or someone else is at risk of serious harm (see section 7), if they have given their consent for information to be passed on, or if the information is required and justified by law.

4.3. Participants recruited to take part in a research study during their contact with Samaritans service must be informed about Samaritans safeguarding policy and the impact this has on confidentiality and anonymity.  Caller contact details for research purposes should only be obtained only at the end of the contact to avoid implications for the safeguarding process.

5. Use and dissemination of information

5.1. Participants must be fully informed that the information they provide is for the purposes of the research only, and how the information will be used, e.g. publications, training events, campaign materials.

5.2. The researcher should only collect information that is relevant to the purposes of the research, or as is required by law.

5.3. Participants must be informed about the types of feedback they can receive on the findings of the research. All participants who request feedback must receive it, either individually or through a gatekeeper organisation.

5.4. Researchers should fully report research procedures, results, and analysis methods accurately and in sufficient detail so that they are accessible to readers and can be replicated.

5.5. Publications from the project must maintain the confidentiality and anonymity of all participants, except in cases where participants have granted written permission for their identity to be disclosed in the interests of the research.

5.6. Acknowledgement of those involved in the project can be given as appropriate, e.g. external Research teams, staff and volunteers, Samaritans. If anyone involved in the project is named and therefore identified in the acknowledgements, agreement is required beforehand.

5.7. All evidence used to inform the development of the project must be suitably referenced.

5.8. Any papers or publications produced from the research project must be agreed with and signed off by the appropriate Head of Team before submitted for publication by an external agency, or published by Samaritans.

5.9. Publications must clearly define the research approach, methods, analytical tools and results in sufficient detail that they are understandable to any person who accesses the research, and allow other researchers to replicate their approach.

5.10. Disseminated information must not be false or misleading as this may negatively affect the public image of the charity. Small-scale or local research cannot be representative of Samaritans, and dissemination of findings, the limitations of the research, how the research can be used, and any implications of the evidence for Samaritans must be considered.

6. Data protection

6.1. All electronic data collected during the research must be stored securely in password-protected files, with participant identifiable information stored separately from research data though linked by a unique identifier. Hardcopy materials containing personal or sensitive information must be secured in a locked cabinet. Research data should only be accessible to designated researchers and for the purposes of the research.

6.2. Any data shared within or between Samaritans and branches, or external researchers and locations, must be transferred securely. This includes the use of signed courier services (for transport of data with no identifiable information), secure spaces on Samaritans intranet, or encrypted files sent by email, or transferred in person by the researcher.

6.3. Only information that is relevant to the purposes of the project, or required by law, should be collected and stored. Data may also be stored to form the basis of academic publications for up to 5 years.

6.4. Data should only be kept for as long as they are of benefit to the project, or in the interest of participants. Data that are no longer required should be appropriately deleted or destroyed.

6.5. Where appropriate, a data processing agreement must be in place with any external Research teams that are supported or commissioned by Samaritans to carry out research on their behalf.

6.6. Participants should be informed that, in accordance with the Data Protection Act (1998), they have a right to see any information that Samaritans holds in relation to them. However, participants must be made aware that Samaritans may hold data that is not identifiable and therefore may not be able to provide data, if requested.

7. Disclosure of risk of ‘serious harm’

Serious harm can refer to situations such as being at risk of, or experiencing, physical, sexual, mental or emotional abuse, or poor emotional and mental well-being. However, in research projects that are exploring the experiences of vulnerable groups, ‘serious harm’ can be hard to define and apply in practice. Therefore, serious harm’ must be clearly defined for each research project based on the study sample and design and provided to the participant.

7.1.  Process for managing disclosures of ‘serious harm’ must be developed based on the study sample and design. For example, face to face data collection methods will enable an immediate response to a disclosure compared to online data collection methods which may not be monitored at all times.

7.2. Participants must be informed that, if they disclose that they or someone else is at risk of serious harm, this information may not remain confidential. 

7.3. Participants who disclose they or someone else are at risk of serious harm will be offered support either by Samaritans or referred to another organisation by the researcher or via Samaritans safeguarding process. The nature and specifics of support offered must be determined by the researcher, and based on the disclosure made and the specifics of the research project (see appendix 4).

7.4. Where a disclosure of serious harm is made by a participant, the researcher must inform the participant what the next steps will be, and whether the disclosure will be referred to a third party. Ideally consent should be sought from the participant before any information is passed on to a third party. However, it should be noted that in some cases of serious harm where the researcher has a duty of care e.g. disclosure of abuse of a minor, they may have to pass on the research participants’ details and disclosed information to a third party without consent – although this would always be the last resort, as the participants’ permission would be sought first. The researcher must also inform their manager and discuss the most appropriate way to manage the disclosure (see appendix 4).

7.5. There may be times when a research participant is not considered at risk of serious harm, but the researcher is concerned about their well-being. In such circumstances, the researcher should ensure that the participant receives information about organisations that can provide appropriate support. With the participant’s permission, researchers may also be able to use Samaritans third party referral process when appropriate.

8. Expenses and Payments

8.1. Participants should receive reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred during a research project, e.g. travel expenses.

8.2. A decision to provide payments for participation, and how much, will depend on funds available. Payments would usually be made in the form of shopping vouchers (avoids tax and benefit implications for participants).

8.3. The researcher responsible for the project needs to assess whether it is appropriate to pay participants for their time and contribution to the research, and any implications this may have on recruitment.

8.4. It may be appropriate to use an incentive to take part in research, such as an entry into a prize draw, or reward an organisation for their help with the research, e.g. resources for an organisation’s library.

8.5. Researchers must not accept gifts (in money or in kind) from funders, participants or stakeholders, as this can undermine impartiality.

9. Researcher Conduct

9.1. Evidence, data, findings or conclusions from the project must never be fabricated, falsified or misrepresented.

9.2. Researchers should act in such a way that they do not jeopardise future research opportunities, the public standing of the field or the reputation of Samaritans.

9.3. Researchers employed by Samaritans or based at an external institution or organisation must ensure high levels of professional conduct. This refers to how researchers manage their own behaviour, and how they manage and present research data. They must also be sufficiently experienced in carrying out research with vulnerable people, and trained to recognise and respond to distress and risk if it arises.

9.4. Researchers should not have potential financial or organisational conflicts of interest in relation to possible findings from the research.

10. Complaints

10.1. Research participants will be informed about the complaints process. A participant who has concerns or a complaint should contact the Principal Investigator responsible for the project. Contact details for the researcher should be provided to the participant on a resource, such as the Participant Information Sheet.

10.2. If participants are recruited via Samaritans, any complaints from a participant must be discussed with the appropriate Head of Team at Samaritans Central Office.

10.3. A research participant who has a complaint about the researcher responsible for the project should be referred to the appropriate Head of Team at Samaritans Central Office.

10.4. Complaints by members of the public about Samaritans research projects should be referred to the appropriate Head of Team at Samaritans Central Office.

10.5. Complaints by funders should be directed in the first instance to the appropriate Head of Team at Samaritans Central Office. If additional input is needed, this must be referred to an Executive Director at Samaritans Central Office.

10.6. Details of the complainant and the complaint will be recorded, additional information sought if necessary, and a response made by either the appropriate Head of Team or Executive Director at Samaritans Central Office.

11. Internet Mediated Research (IMR)

11.1. Though most elements of research ethics apply to all research, IMR projects may require special consideration by ethics committees. This must be done on a project by project basis.

11.2. Researchers must determine whether IMR is a suitable approach for the purposes of the research and for the sample population being studied. One limitation of IMR is that the researcher has less control than in conventional research over who takes part and in what kind of environment.

11.3. When recruiting participants for IMR through email, researchers need to consider any risk due to the use of non-secure emails and legislation regarding unsolicited ‘spam’ emails.

11.4. For observational studies (e.g. observing behaviour and use of chat rooms) researchers must consider participants’ expectations of privacy, levels of deception, whether observing is intrusive, and whether using these data could cause harm to participants who are not aware that their online behaviour is being observed.

11.5. Researchers need to consider risk to confidentiality, as it is not possible to guarantee absolute confidentiality to IMR participants (the researcher cannot control the networks). For example, email content may be stored by web hosting companies.

11.6. Researchers need to inform IMR participants how the data they provide is electronically stored and transported. Additionally, if participants post any information online for the purposes of the research, they must be informed that this could be seen by the public via search engines. Unless a participant has provided consent, researchers need to consider how reporting any data obtained from the internet could pose a threat to a participant’s privacy, e.g. using a participant quote that could be traced through a search engine.

11.7. Anonymity must be applied to a website address, discussion forum, and pseudonyms used by participants.

11.8. Researchers need to consider whether IMR is suitable for participants who require permission from a parent/carer to participate, e.g. those aged under 16 years. This will depend on the nature of the research and the complexity of gaining dual consent from both the participant and the parent/carer.

11.9. Researchers must provide an accessible information sheet that the participant can access (e.g. online), which outlines the study, how long their participation will take and any costs incurred if using internet access, especially via smartphones, that will enable them to provide informed consent.

11.10. Researchers must ensure withdrawal from research is clear to participants, e.g. by providing the researchers’ contact details, issuing ID codes to enable data to be identified and withdrawn, or providing participants with a cut-off date where all data will be anonymised and therefore untraceable.

11.11. Researchers must provide IMR participants with a debrief page to ensure they are clear on key issues and where they can access support, if required (see appendix 5).

11.12. Researchers should consider how participants who withdraw from the research can receive a debrief page and how accessible they are to respond to communications from these participants.

11.13. Researchers need to consider how they will provide feedback and disseminate the research findings to IMR participants. Information on how participants can request or access feedback must be provided.

11.14. Researchers who use any sensitive materials that could cause significant distress to participants must be cautious when using IMR. Researchers who do not have physical contact with participants may be unable to assess a situation accurately and provide support to participants when needed.

11.15. Researchers carrying out IMR must ensure that their professional and personal online boundaries are maintained. For example, researchers are advised to only use work emails and not use any personal types of online contact.

11.16. Any research using social media data must review key questions and justify the approach being used in the research;

a) If ethical approval is required, is the ethics committee suitably skilled in social media research?

b) Are the researchers competent and skilled in social media research projects?

b) Is the data considered to be ‘public’ or ‘private’ and what implications may this have?

c) How will you maintain anonymity of the social media users?

d) Do you need to gain informed consent from the social media users?

e) Are there any risks of harm to the social media users that need to be considered?

11.17. Researchers must review the site owners’ privacy statement and how users have agreed for their data to be used. Researchers must also inform site owners if the research is going to use publicly available data on their platform. This can be on an opt-out basis.

12. Process and Organisational Matters

12.1. All Samaritans research applications and projects are considered by the Research team at Samaritans Central Office to ensure they adhere to the Research Ethics Policy and will not put the organisation at any risk.

12.2. The Policy and Research Committee (PRC) will monitor applications for research projects that require ethical approval by Samaritans Research Ethics Board (SREB), to ensure that research is being approved and completed.

12.2. Where a project is being designed internally by the Research team in Samaritans Central Office, or by volunteers in a branch, the research project team must complete an ethics from and evidence how the project meets the requirements of Samaritans Research Ethics Policy.

12.3. Samaritans branches must ensure that they have consulted with Samaritans Research team in Samaritans Central Office before supporting or commissioning any research. This will enable the Research team to provide advice and support in gaining ethical approval.

12.4. All Samaritans researchers and any external researchers working with or for Samaritans are subject to checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

12.5. Samaritans is committed to ensuring the personal safety of researchers. It will encourage the use of mobile phones and identity cards, and the use of a monitoring system for checking researcher whereabouts and activities.

12.6. A full copy of the ethics policy must be issued to external agencies (including research institutions, universities and market research companies) undertaking commissioned research on behalf of Samaritans, prior to the commencement of work. External agencies must also have their own ethics policy and these should be reviewed by Samaritans prior to contract. External institutions or organisations with an Ethics Committee must produce evidence of ethical approval.

12.7. Adherence to the ethics policy will be required as a key component of the standard service-level agreement between parties. Standard service-level agreements covering ownership of information, copyright and citation privileges, access to data, data protection, and publication needs are required prior to the commencement of work conducted by any external agency. Adherence to Samaritans’ ethics policy will be required as a key component of the standard service-level agreement between parties.

12.8. Samaritans will review this policy every 3-4 years unless requested sooner by Samaritans Research team, Executive Leadership Team, Policy and Research Committee and/or Board of Trustees.  

12.9. In instances where Samaritans partners with an external research body to undertake research, it might be requested to submit research data to the UK Data Archive. In instances where this occurs, a decision needs to be made about how/whether to proceed if this is a requirement, on a case by case basis. If archiving data is a requirement of a study, Samaritans should not enter into an agreement or contract with an external research organisation until a risk assessment is carried out.

12.10. If recruiting participants for research via Samaritans email services, researchers must adhere to an agreed process (see appendix 6).

12.11. Projects addressing sensitive topics and/or including Samaritans callers or potential callers must be reviewed by Samaritans Research team and Samaritans Research Ethics Board.




Samaritans has a policy of caller confidentiality, which is fundamental to our service. In circumstances where a person contacts Samaritans services by phone, email, letter, SMS or face-to-face, the following policies and procedures apply:

All information relating to a caller is confidential to Samaritans unless:

a.  We have informed consent from a caller to pass on information

b.  We call an ambulance because a caller appears to be incapable of making rational decisions for him or herself

c.  We receive a court order requiring us to divulge information or are required to do so by nation specific legislation

d.  We are passed information about acts of terrorism, bomb warnings, or threats to life*

e.  A caller attacks or threatens volunteers

f.   A caller deliberately prevents the service from being delivered to other callers

g.  An identifiable child or someone we consider to be a vulnerable adult is at risk of serious harm, in which case we may contact the relevant services in line with our safeguarding policy.

*This is a specific arrangement with branches in Northern Ireland

Samaritans maintains confidentiality even after the death of a caller unless required to report under one of the conditions listed above.

Note: Samaritans Confidentiality Policy does not apply within the context of research. See section 1: Application of the Policy.

To read Samaritans privacy policy, please visit




Surveys administered by Samaritans must adopt the introduction page below, to ensure participants are able to give informed consent before completing the survey:

The aim of this survey is to gather the views of [INSERT] in order to better understand [INSERT]. It will help inform the development and improvement of [INSERT] and findings may be quoted in internal and external reports.

This research is being conducted in line with Samaritans’ Research Ethics Policy which can be found here [INSERT LINK]. All of the survey data will be stored in accordance with the policy, confidentially and securely. Your data will be processed by Survey Monkey, details of their privacy and security measures can be found here

Your participation is voluntary and anonymous, and any information you provide will be used for the purpose of the research only, and not passed onto a third party.

This survey will not be monitored regularly and does not provide access to emotional support. If you need emotional support, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email You can also visit our website at

The survey should take approximately [INSERT] minutes to complete.




One copy should be kept by the researcher and one copy given to the participant

By completing this form, you are giving your consent to taking part in a Samaritans research project titled [project title here]. Please initial each statement and sign the form to provide consent.

  1. I confirm that I understand the purpose of the research and what participation will involve.
  2. I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to withdraw at any time without giving a reason.
  3. I understand how the information I provide will be recorded and stored. I can request a copy of my data (unless unidentifiable) at any time.
  4. I am aware that the information I provide will be used for the purposes of the research unless I decide to withdraw the information within [insert time frame].
  5. I understand that all data collected will be anonymised before it is published or presented and that all the information I have given is confidential unless I agree otherwise.
  6. I am fully aware of how the information I provide may be used and presented in publications, e.g. quotes.
  7. I am aware how the information I provide will be managed and used by Samaritans in their internal and external work and publications indefinitely.
  8. Any expenses I incur will be reimbursed where it is deemed as reasonable.
  9. I have received satisfactory answers to any question I had about the project.
  10. I have been provided with the contact details of the researcher.

If there are any issues above you do not understand, please ask for clarification before signing this consent form.

Signature of research participant

I have read and fully understand the consent form. I provide my name/signature as consent.

Name (in full): _______________________________________________________________


Signature: ___________________________________ Date: __________________________




There is no consensus as to what constitutes ‘serious harm’ which, if disclosed to a researcher during the research process, should result in the researcher providing information to a third party. How risk of serious harm should and can be assessed and responded to will differ depending on the sample population participating in the research and the research topic area. The aim is therefore to ensure that for every research project a sufficient process is put in place as part of the research plan to ensure that any disclosures are managed appropriately.

Below are a series of questions to consider when planning and conducting research, and when managing a disclosure of risk of serious harm. These questions need to be addressed and discussed between the researcher and their manager or other relevant parties.

  1. Have you clearly defined what would constitute a disclosure of ‘serious harm’ for your research project?
  2. Is the disclosure of risk of serious harm to the participant, to another person (adult or child), or to society, i.e. bomb threat?
  3. What is the risk of serious harm that has been disclosed?
  4. Are there any issues relating to the disclosure that are not clearly understood by the researcher? Is more information needed and is this possible?
  5. If action is not taken with regard to the disclosure of risk of serious harm, will the risk continue? Is this acceptable?
  6. What are your reasons and justifications for contacting a third party?
  7. Does the disclosure of serious harm need to be managed quickly due to the nature of the risk? If it isn’t managed quickly, will there be any possible implications to those at risk or to others?
  8. How will you inform the participant who disclosed the risk of serious harm that you will be referring the information to a third party? Have you been able to gain their consent before information is referred?
  9. Will informing the participant and/or gaining their consent that their disclosure will be referred to a third party, have any risk of serious harm? If yes, what risk? Will the research participant change their behaviour to minimise or hide the risk that was disclosed?
  10. Do you need further advice from a relevant expert before passing information to a third party due to a disclosure of risk of serious harm?




A debrief sheet is used to provide participants with key information at the end of their involvement in a research project. All participants must receive a debrief sheet, including participants who decided to withdraw from the study earlier than agreed. Below is an example of key information to provide.

Thank you for taking part in this research project that is looking at [insert]. We really appreciate the time you have given to help us better understand [insert] and help us to improve [insert].

When will the results be available? The findings from the research will be available from [mm/yy]. If you would like to receive a summary of the findings please contact [researcher or project lead] on [email address] or [telephone number].

What will happen to the information that you provided? The information that you provided will be used only for the purposes of this research study. Any data we have will be stored securely, and not shared with a third party. The data will be deleted once the study is finalised.

How will the results be disseminated? A report for [insert] will be produced and presented at internal events. We may present the findings at external events and in published papers. Any information we have will remain anonymous, and no participants will be identified.

What if I’ve changed my mind and want to withdraw my information from the study? If you no longer want the information you have provided to be included in the research study, please contact [researcher name] on [email address] or [telephone number] before [dd/mm/yy].

Who do I contact for further information? If you would like any further information about the research project, or would like to talk about anything in more detail, please contact [researcher] on [email address] or [telephone number].

Who do I contact if I have a complaint or concerns? If you have a complaint about the study please contact [researcher or project lead] on [email address] or [telephone number].

Who can I contact if I need support? If you feel you have been adversely affected by taking part in this research study, and would like to speak to a support service you are advised to seek help from one of the support services listed below: 

  • Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email You can also visit our website at
  • [List of other organisations that can support the participant group]




For some research and evaluation projects, Samaritans may provide information inviting people to take part in research at the point of service use, in our email footer. When this recruitment process is applied, the process outlined below is to help researchers follow best practice.

  1. Research ethics approval
  • The email footer cannot be used to recruit participants unless the research has ethical approval from an external ethics committee or Samaritans Research Ethics Board. This ensures that the research is of scientific merit, of value to Samaritans and people in distress and is conducted with the highest care for participants.
  • Research projects must adhere to Samaritans’ Research Ethics Policy and provide evidence of ethical approval from an appropriate committee.
  • A draft of the footer wording (along with other recruitment material) will be checked by the Samaritans and external research ethics bodies, as is standard practice.
  1. Checking email footer wording
  • Information about the research project and the wording of the text for the email footer will be sent to the Chair of Regional Directors and Functional Lead for Caller Support.
  • They will check the wording of the email footer, as the relevant operational leadership roles. Approval of the research overall rests with Samaritans’ Policy and Research Committee.
  • The text for the email footer must be kept short, and provide the means for callers to access further information about the study.
  1. Communicating with those involved in delivering email support
  • Before the email footer is made live, information regarding the study will be provided to the following involved in delivering or supporting the delivery of Samaritans’ email support.
  • An email to the Chair of RD to Regional Directors and Directors/Chairmen
  • An email to the Functional Lead of Caller Support to Regional Caller Support Officers, Central Office staff including Caller Support, Quality and Operations (contact distribution)
  • Internal communications via SamsNet will raise volunteer’s awareness of the research and the approach being taken, and to know how to respond to any enquiries from callers*
  1. Insertion and removal of email footer
  • The Contact Distribution team in Central Office inserts and removes the content into the footer. This is an easy process with current software. 
  • The footer is usually removed once sufficient participants are recruited – usually not present for more than a month.
  • (It should be noted the email footer has been used to recruit callers in several research projects and it is rare for callers to write directly to regarding the research).

* (Volunteers should refer the enquiry to the Research team and continue to support the caller as usual).