Samaritans began in 1953 in London, founded by the Reverend Chad Varah.
He had been profoundly affected by the impact of suicide since his first day in the ministry, after he conducted the funeral of a 14 year old girl who took her own life believing she had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. In reality the young girl in question had merely started her periods and had no one to turn to.
Determined to offer a dedicated service to those suffering with emotional distress or contemplating suicide, Chad began to offer a non-judgemental, safe and confidential listening service to anyone in need in the Crypt at his church St Stephen Walbrook.
This ‘emergency service for the suicidal’ began to gain national newspaper coverage, with the Daily Mirror coining the phrase ‘Good Samaritans’ for the service. This newspaper coverage attracted volunteers, as well as callers, who initially supported Chad by providing tea and coffee and sitting with the callers, offering them someone to chat to while they waited for their appointment.
However, it soon became clear that their role was much more central to the service. Often, the clients would pour out their problems to these 'receptionists' and many felt no need to speak to Chad afterwards, or intimated that it had been helpful to talk about how they were feeling.
The birth of Samaritans volunteers
Inspired by this Chad began to understand that the action of speaking to someone they did not know, who would simply listen to what they had to say, could be beneficial for people in distress. Inadvertently, some years before the benefits of counselling as we now know it were widely recognised, Samaritans was able to give people a space where they could potentially find objectivity and perhaps a way forward, through being listened to.
Today our Central London branch has around 450 dedicated, compassionate volunteers taking around 100,000 calls for support a year and actively working with high risk groups outside of the branch.
Help us plan for the future
Making a donation to Central London Samaritans in your will is a simple, tax-efficient way of helping our volunteers to continue supporting vulnerable people in the future.
If you would like further information about Legacy gifting, please contact us and a member of our team will guide you through the different options available.