Partnership with telecommunications industry helps Samaritans answer 1.2 million calls for help in two years

Industry to continue support for helpline

Figures released by Samaritans today show that the charity has answered 1.2 million calls for help since its number became free to call with the support of the telecommunications industry two years ago.

A ground-breaking partnership with Ireland’s six largest telecommunications providers – BT Ireland,  eir, Virgin Media , Vodafone, Sky Ireland and Three through the Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) made it possible for Samaritans to launch a free to call number in 2014. The industry has now committed to continue its support for the helpline until 2019.

The charity believes that removing the barrier of cost has made it easier for people to access support as they no longer have to worry about call charges. The risk of dying by suicide is 5 times greater in the lowest socio-economic group compared to the highest*, so the financial implications of accessing help are significant.  Calls to the helpline have increased by almost 60 per cent since the freecall number was launched and the charity is now answering over 1,600 calls for help a day. 

Catherine Brogan, Executive Director, Samaritans Ireland, said

"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.

"Developments in telecommunications have always played an important role in making it easier for people to contact us when they are struggling. It is fitting that it is the support of the telecommunications industry which means that we can offer support to people who are struggling to cope at any time of the day or night at no cost to the caller.

The volume of calls to our helpline continues to grow year on year. The industry’s continued support means that we can focus on being there for people who need us and reducing suicide in Ireland."

Samaritans was awarded the number 116 123 as part of an EU initiative to provide a standardised number for emotional support helplines in all member states. A requirement of operating the number was that it must be free to callers. The telecommunications industry agreed to cover the costs of calls to the helpline for an initial two year period and has now extended that support.

Torlach Denihan, Director of Ibec’s Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) said that the industry was very pleased to be in a position to continue to assist Samaritans in its vital work.

"There is a very unique relationship between Samaritans and the telecoms sector and the partnership recognises this decades old link.

"We are particularly pleased that the six largest telecoms providers have decided to continue to support this initiative by Samaritans.  This is indicative of the high regard we hold Samaritans’ work."

The first branch of Samaritans in the Republic of Ireland opened in 1970 with one phone line in an office in Dublin. There are now 13 centres across the country and over 1,500 volunteers who answer calls to the national freecall number. The charity has produced a short video showing the development of the service in Ireland which can be viewed online at www.samaritans.ie/journey.  

In September 2015, it also became free to call Samaritans in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom meaning that anyone on the island of Ireland can call Samaritans at no cost on 116123.