A Lanarkshire listening volunteer has reflected on a ‘whole lifetime’ of service to Samaritans during our Talk to Us awareness-raising month.
Branches across Scotland – as well as those from all over the UK and Ireland – will mark Samaritans Awareness Day on Monday, July 24 (24-7), spreading the message that listening volunteers can be reached around the clock, every day of the year.
Dan Russell answered his first call in 1972 and, as well as being a listener, has devoted his time to a number of roles including director, trainer, mentor, leader and fundraiser over the decades.
Dan’s dedication to the service is all the more remarkable as he juggled shifts with family life and a busy career as a solicitor.
He said: “In 1971, I had just left university and started work and wanted to give something back by volunteering. With that thought, I saw an advert for Samaritans and the rest is history.
“Being there is always challenging, not knowing what the next caller may be facing, but ready to accept and listen. But being there for someone at a time of need is also rewarding and a huge privilege.
There have been enormous changes as technology has developed and rightly been embraced over the years. However, fundamentally, what we do has not changed. We still listen and listen and listen.
Since I first volunteered, I got engaged and got married. We now have four children and four grandchildren. I worked for 40 years as a solicitor and am now retired.
“A whole life and a whole lifetime with Samaritans.”
The Lanarkshire branch was formally established in 1973 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It is based in Hamilton town centre and covers both North and South Lanarkshire.
Neil Mathers, Executive Director of Samaritans Scotland, congratulated the branch on its anniversary.
He said: “We are incredibly proud that our Lanarkshire branch has been providing lifesaving emotional support for 50 years.
“Every volunteer who has dedicated their time there over the last five decades has helped ensure a listening ear is always available when people need it most.
“It is inspiring to hear of Dan’s remarkable service, and to think of all that he has achieved and experienced in life – from graduating university as a young man to retiring and becoming a grandfather – whilst being a constant figure at the branch.
“My heartfelt thanks go to Dan and all Samaritans volunteers in Lanarkshire, past and present, who have helped us reduce the number of lives lost to suicide.”