By Michael Upton, Deputy Director
The function of Outreach is, as it name indicates, to reach out to people who may either not know about us, or who have perhaps heard of Samaritans but don’t actually know what we do.
For those that are aware of Samaritans a common misconception is that “they’re something to do with suicide”, and although being there for people taking their own life is an important part of our work, it is nevertheless a very small part of what we do.
The vast majority of our activity is being there at the end of a phone or e-mail for people who are distressed, depressed, distraught and in despair.
We offer emotional support and a friendly non-judgemental, totally confidential listening service for everyone - rich and poor, the old and the young, sometimes very young, children, teenagers, university students, doctors, builders labourers, housewives, black, white, every race creed colour and religion, gay straight, trans, the frightened, the hurt, the physically, mentally or sexually abused, the raped. In short - anyone and everyone.
Outreach is making contact with as many people and organisations as possible to explain what we do and how we do it, in a non-stressful environment and atmosphere, where we give talks to groups of people - large and small, such as Medical Groups, Women’s Institutes, Men’s Groups, Various Organisations and Clubs, Farming Groups (a very high suicide risk group of people), Youth and Young People’s Groups and Schools. We also visit Hospitals, Nursing and Care Homes, Doctors and Dental Surgeries, Undertakers; set up temporary display stands in various locations such as Supermarkets, Village Halls, Town Halls, Town Centre locations and many more, and we site posters in strategic locations.
In short - Outreach is about getting knowledge of Samaritans to as many people as possible. It is interesting, sometimes challenging, but always very rewarding work.
MICHAEL Deputy Director Kings Lynn Samaritans
Our Work in Prisons
An important but possibly little known part of Samaritan work involves supporting people in prison. There are more than 78,000 people in jail in the UK and the rate of suicide is higher than in the rest of the population. Samaritan support is confidential and totally non-judgemental. Teams of carefully selected prisoners are trained to listen and support their peers. They are part of the Listener Scheme which is available in the majority of the 117 jails in the UK and whose work is valued by prisoners and staff alike and fully endorsed by the Ministry Of Justice.
Many Samaritan branches have Prison Teams whose members regularly visit the jails and run Listener Support meetings where they offer guidance, liaise where appropriate with the staff and occasionally meet with struggling ‘callers’. This scheme originated 30 years ago in Wales when a 16 year-old boy on remand for a minor offence, took his own life. Some forward-thinking people in both the Samaritans and the Prison Service came up with the idea that if prisoners had someone to talk to, possibly this tragic situation could be avoided in future.
There are still far too many suicides in jails, and levels of poor mental health and self-harm are worryingly high, but all involved with this amazing scheme know that without it and the dedicated work of the teams, many prisoners would struggle alone to cope and many more would have died.
The Rail Industry Million Hour Challenge
Saturday 27 March marks the 2 year anniversary since the launch of the Million Hour Challenge, the rail industry’s volunteering initiative to help support Samaritans. The aim of the challenge is to bring staff from across the rail industry together and encourage them to volunteer their time to support us, while also helping improve the mental health and wellbeing of those working in the sector.
To date a total of 30 rail organisations employing some 165,000 staff have already signed up to the challenge however we are keen to attract more rail staff to sign up via the website and to take part.
Keen to know more? Please email [email protected]