Continuing to widen access to help and support is vital to reduce the levels of distress, anxiety and isolation that lead to suicide and self-harm, Rachel Cackett, the Executive Director of Samaritans Scotland, believes.
On a visit to the Edinburgh and Lothians branch of the country’s leading suicide prevention charity, Kevin Stewart MSP, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, confirmed an extension of funding to support the charity’s listening services, which offer a trusted space for those who need a non-judgemental ear.
New statistics have revealed that volunteers in Scotland answered 160,000 calls for help last year, including spending a total of 36,000 hours on the phone.
But with Covid continuing to impact on in-person interactions, finding new ways to connect, said Rachel Cackett, is central in offering hope through a human connection that ultimately saves lives.
She said: “The amazing work from our 1,000 volunteers across Scotland makes a real difference within our communities in our mission to see fewer people die by suicide. Being there 24/7, every day and night means there is always somebody to listen whenever someone is struggling.
“Piloting online chat, in tandem with our phone service, allows us to widen access to help, as well as diversifying the options available to volunteer with us.
“We’re hugely grateful to the Scottish Government for their support in this, and other initiatives, in building a compassionate and caring society where no one feels they must face their struggles alone.”
Edinburgh and the Lothians, one of Samaritans’ largest Branches, undertakes outreach in schools, workplaces and prisons, as well as running Scotland’s only Samaritans Shop.
After meeting volunteers involved in taking calls at the Branch, Wellbeing Minister Kevin Stewart today praised the contribution they make.
He said: “We know just how valuable a listening ear can be for people who are struggling with their mental health. That is why I am delighted to extend our financial support for Samaritans’ listening services supporting people across Scotland.
"The Scottish Government, and myself personally, would like to thank all Samaritans volunteers for giving their time so generously to help others.
“It’s encouraging to see Samaritans developing new ways for people to access their services, allowing more people to benefit from their compassionate support. Our work with the Samaritans is an example of the strong partnership approach we have to suicide prevention in Scotland.”
Bruce Anderson, Branch Director, Samaritans of Edinburgh and the Lothians, said: “It was on June 1, 1959, that a volunteer took the first call to Samaritans outside of London. And the phone has rarely stopped ringing since.
“But to reach everyone who needs us, we have gone out into the community to offer emotional support and outreach to people who face additional risks.
“And in growing our online resources, including rolling out webchat, we hope to make an even bigger impact in reducing instances of suicide and self-harm.”
- For more information, contact Mark Woods at Samaritans Scotland on 07710509728
- Header image (L-R): Bruce Anderson, Danielle Rowley (Samaritans Scotland), Kevin Stewart MSP, Rachel Cackett