Being there when people need us most

Ruth Sutherland 

Here I share my journey at Samaritans, keeping you informed of the important work of our staff and volunteers, challenging perceptions and asking tough questions.

I welcome all your views and questions so please do leave your comments below.

You can also find me tweeting: @SamaritansRuth

As the cold weather kicks in and we move beyond the New Year bump of resolutions and plans for the year being made, many of us find January and February a struggle. The mornings remain dark, the evenings darker, and, well some of the afternoons aren’t too much brighter either. The good times of friends and family at Christmas can suddenly feel a long way away.

As I touched on in my last post, we all feel isolated at times for many different reasons. We can feel overwhelmed, and when our usual ways of coping have run out it’s critical that people have someone to talk to. When you’re struggling to cope, you need to know that there’s someone there for you when you need it most: a friend, a family member, a colleague or a Samaritans volunteer.

Research has shown us that when people felt like this, they felt put off contacting Samaritans because they were worried about the cost of the call.

The same research that showed us people felt the cost was an issue showed us that suicide is not equal. For example, men living in some of the UK’s most deprived areas are ten times more likely to die by suicide than those from affluent areas. Ten times! It’s an astronomical number and we had to do something to try to make a difference.

Because of this, we worked with major telecoms companies to find a way of making our helpline free to call, and we were able to achieve this in 2015, launching our free to caller number 116 123 on 22 September 2015. Even if your phone has run out of credit you can call us and our number doesn’t show up on your bill so you can be confident no-one knows you’ve called Samaritans unless you want them to tell them.

This was an historic day for us, helping to improve access to our life-saving support, but the work of our volunteers and staff hasn’t stopped there.

At the end of January, we’ll be launching a pilot awareness campaign for our service in ten areas across the UK and Ireland. We’re doing this on radio, on buses, on phone boxes, in pubs: wherever we can so that people know if they’re struggling and they need someone to talk to, they can talk to us. You might see these in your area (or indeed hear them on the radio), or you might meet volunteers doing outreach work in your local community.

We do all of this to help as many people access our service as possible, and we hope to run more campaigns throughout the year. We receive 5.2 million calls for help each year, but we know more people need our help, and it’s our aim to be there to help them, whenever and however they may need us.