Demand for Samaritans' service highest during loneliest hours

-63% of calls to helpline answered out of hours-

Ireland’s leading suicide reduction charity, Samaritans Ireland, received more calls from 6pm to midnight than at any other time of the day over the past year. That’s according to the organisation’s 2015-2016 Impact Report which was launched today.

More than one in three calls to Samaritans’ helpline were received between 6pm and 12am and 63% of all calls to the service are made between 6pm and 6am.

Samaritans answered 639,652 calls for help over the last 12 months. This included:

  • 606, 816 phone calls
  • 13,444 emails
  • 17,311 text messages
  • 2,081 face to face visits to branches.

Speaking at the launch of the report today in Dublin, Deirdre Toner, Samaritans Executive Director for Ireland said: “The fact that most calls for help are received outside of office hours shows that Samaritans provides a vital support for people in distress when other services and sources of support may not be available.

People who are struggling often feel isolated and alone. They may want to talk about their suicidal feelings but don’t know where to turn, or fear that they may be judged.  Over 450 people in Ireland take their lives each year. Many of those people may feel like they don’t have anywhere to seek support. Samaritans volunteers work hard to provide a space for people in crisis when there may be nowhere else to turn.

The busiest hour for calls throughout the year was from 8pm to 9pm on Monday nights suggesting that Mondays are a particularly difficult time for people. Calls received on Mondays tend to be longer than calls during the rest of the week with those received during 4am and 6am having the longest duration of all calls received throughout the week.

Bank holidays also saw an increase in calls to Samaritans with an average of 1,835 calls received on Bank Holiday Mondays compared to 1,705 on a regular Monday.

Samaritans volunteers

Samaritans volunteers provided 74,372 hours of listening to people in distress over the last 12 months, culminating in just under 4,000 days of listening. Samaritans service is delivered by 1,836 volunteers in branches across the country who are supported by a small staff team with a ratio of 1 staff member for every 262 volunteers.

Demand for Samaritans service has increased dramatically since the organisation launched a new free to call number in 2014. Volunteers have increased the number of hours listening they provide by 38% since then.

“Our volunteers are ordinary people who do extraordinary things to support people when they are at their most vulnerable. Samaritans volunteers are there even during the loneliest hours of the night to offer support without fear of judgement”, said Giovanni Doran, Regional Director and volunteer with Samaritans Ireland.

Need for local action on suicide

In addition to providing support to people by telephone, email and text message, Samaritans works to support groups and communities at increased risk of suicide through outreach programmes with groups such a travellers, prisoners and men in disadvantaged communities.

Deirdre Toner said: “Our vision is to reduce suicide and we work to target groups and communities who are at increased risk.   Suicide is a complex issue and one which requires action for all sectors of society.

Action needs to take place at a local level to ensure that people and communities at risk can access the support they need. We are calling on the Government to make suicide reduction a priority and in particular to ensure that local action plans on suicide which address the needs of communities are in place across and that people can access appropriate crisis support 24/7”.

Minister Helen McEntee

Helen McEntee TD, Minister for Mental Health and Older People, also spoke at today’s event. 

 “The fact that most of the calls are made to the service at night reflect the importance of the 24-hour support which Samaritans offers.  People contact Samaritans because of the enormous value they find in having a ‘safe space’ and someone to listen and support.

“I want to acknowledge the tremendous work being delivered by volunteers.  As we approach the Christmas holidays, I know Samaritans’ volunteers are scheduling round-the-clock shifts to make sure they are available to those who need emotional support.  That hundreds of people throughout the country give so freely of their time to such an important cause is truly admirable,” she said.

“Ireland faces many challenges in relation to mental health, and I am committed to working with the relevant voluntary and statutory partners to address these.  Samaritans – and other organisations in this sector – are making a significant contribution by supporting people experiencing emotional distress.”

The impact report launched by Samaritans today covers the period from the beginning of November 2015 to end of September 2016.

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Rachel Wright, Policy and Communications Manager on 085860554 or by email at r.wright@samaritans.org .

Notes to editors:

About Samaritans

You don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans. Whatever you’re going through, call us free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.