Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Mental Health, launches Samaritans new free phone number campaign

The number of people calling Samaritans’ helpline has risen by around 15 per cent since the charity launched its new free helpline number, 116 123, in September 2015.

Samaritans in Scotland held an event on Monday 25 January in Glasgow – one of the pilot areas for the new campaign to raise awareness of the improved service. Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, spoke at the event, which took place alongside  the North East Glasgow East Suicide Prevention Forum.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, said: “I’m delighted to be here today to help raise awareness of Samaritans Scotland’s free helpline number. This means that even more people are likely to pick up the phone if they are struggling to cope, and I am confident that will help contribute to saving lives.

“Suicide rates in Scotland have fallen dramatically in recent years, with the number of deaths by suicide in 2014 at the lowest level for a single year since 1977. The work of the Samaritans, with their dedicated volunteers, has been a vital part of that effort, and they should all be proud to have helped so many people. I’m pleased that the Scottish Government has been able to contribute as a funder of the Samaritans.”

Samaritans, the UK’s leading suicide reduction charity, wants to make sure as many people as possible have access to the support service.

James Jopling, Executive Director for Scotland, said: “We are delighted that more people are now able to contact us, at any time, every day of the year, for whatever they are struggling with, without having to pay call charges.

“We want to encourage more people to call us if they are going through a difficult time. Our volunteers are experts in listening and can help you talk through your concerns, worries and troubles. You don’t have to be suicidal to call us.”

The organisation is launching awareness-raising campaigns in ten pilot areas across the UK, with radio and poster advertising, particularly targeting people in the lowest socio-economic groups, who can be at a high risk of suicide.

Last year Samaritans’ 1000 volunteers in Scotland responded to almost 26,000 contacts each month, by phone, email, text and face to face. 

James Jopling added: “Everyone has moments in their life where they struggle to cope and for some this can lead to feeling hopeless and losing sight of being able to work through their problems. We know that talking can really help people to see a way through and we would encourage anyone who is struggling to call Samaritans.”