Demand for Samaritans service in Ireland reaches new high

Samaritans had its busiest ever year in 2014, as volunteers across the Republic responded to over half a million calls for help*. Details of the increase in use of Samaritans’ vital service were revealed in the 2013-2014 Impact Report covering Samaritans’ work in Ireland launched today.

According to the report, over 478,200 calls to the helpline, almost 12,000 emails and over 8,000 texts were answered by Samaritans volunteers. There were also just under 8,700 face to face visits to Samaritans branches across the Republic.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Catherine Brogan, Executive Director of Samaritans Ireland, said: “The figures show that there is a huge demand for our service and we are aware - from the nature of our calls - that many people In Ireland are struggling to cope.  By making our service as accessible as possible, we hope to be there to support people through their problems.

“This year, we removed a significant barrier with the launch of our new free to caller number, 116 123. A partnership between Samaritans, the telecommunications industry, Government and the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) has made it possible for people  to talk to us round the clock at no cost to the caller”.

“This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of phone calls to the helpline calls received by those running the Samaritans’ service in the Republic of Ireland. Since the launch of the number in March 2014, we’ve experienced a 52 per cent increase in the number of calls received compared with the same period in 2013.

Key Findings

Key findings from Samaritans’ 2014 impact report for Ireland include the following:

  • More people than ever contacted Samaritans in the Republic of Ireland over the past year. 478,222 calls to the helpline, 11,987 emails and 8,057 texts were answered by Samaritans volunteers. There were 8,646 face to face contacts between volunteers and members of the public.
  • Callers supported by Samaritans’ helpline benefited from 63,659 hours of listening time by the service’s volunteers.  The amount of listening time provided has increased by 38% since the new free to caller number was launched.
  • Samaritans Ireland received an average of 1,310 contacts a day in the 12 months from October 2013 to September 2014. This is an increase of 266 calls a day on average compared to the previous year.
  • 55% of calls to the helpline are received from 6pm to 6am.
  • The average length of call was 12 minutes.

Catherine Brogan continued: “The free to caller number has encouraged more people to contact us, particularly by mobile. It is now more popular for people to call us from a mobile with 70 per cent of callers choosing to contact us this way. Making the service free to caller means that we have become the first point of contact for many people who are struggling to cope.

“The issues of most concern to our callers have remained consistent over the last number of years. These include family and relationship problems; financial worries; depression and mental health problems; loneliness; and stress and anxiety. However, people can talk to us about whatever is getting to them. Some people think that you have to be suicidal to talk to Samaritans but that is not the case. We are here for anyone who needs to talk, no matter what kind of problem our callers have, however big or small it may seem, they can get in touch.

“Our 12 branches across the country have also been working in partnership with organisations like the GAA and the HSE, to let more people know about the support we provide. This has also resulted in more people contacting us. ”

Samaritans is a volunteer-led organisation, with over 1,500 people volunteering in branches across the Republic, making Samaritans the longest serving organisation in the area of emotional support and suicide reduction in Ireland.

Regional Director for Ireland, Robert McBride paid tribute to the work of Samaritans volunteers: “Volunteers are the core of Samaritans, delivering the support service, running all branches and increasing awareness of the work we do.

“This year, our volunteers have shown extraordinary dedication as they responded to the rise in calls received with an increase in listening hours. Volunteers provided 63,659 hours of listening time over the last year. In the six months after the number was introduced, they have increased the listening hours given by 38 per cent.

“We were also able to extend our service in Wicklow and Wexford with the launch of our new East Coast Service in Arklow. 30 volunteers have been trained for the new service.

“Our volunteers are ordinary people who do extraordinary things by supporting people who feel that life is getting to them and helping them find a way through their problems. We hope to grow our volunteer base further in the coming year.”

Also speaking at the launch of the report, Kathleen Lynch TD, Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, said:  “The increase in calls to Samaritans this year shows how essential the service is and the importance of making the service free to access. I want to acknowledge the continued dedication of Samaritans volunteers across the country in responding to the increased demand for support.  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 a space to talk.”

Samaritans’ helpline number in the Republic of Ireland is 116 123. Further information about the organisations work is available at www.samaritans.ie.

*Calls for help include all contacts received by Samaritans in the Republic of Ireland and includes helpline calls, emails, text messages and face to face contacts with Samaritans volunteers.

For more information, please contact Rachel Wright, Communications & Policy Officer, Samaritans Ireland, Tel: 085860 5554/ 01 6710071.