Press release: Change of Chair at Samaritans

Samaritans’ Chair, Sophie Andrews, is stepping down as her three year term comes to an end. Having made contact with Samaritans as a young girl, Sophie’s own experience of needing someone to talk to inspired her to become a volunteer 17 years ago and take up the role of Chair in 2008.

Sophie will be handing over on October 1 to volunteer Stephen Hoddell, who has been taking calls on the helpline service for almost 40 years. Stephen joined the Bristol branch of Samaritans as a listening volunteer in 1973 at the age of 24. During his time in the branch he took on additional roles as Deputy Director and Branch Director. Since 2008 Stephen has been the Regional Representative, acting on behalf of the thousand volunteers from the 11 branches in the South West.

In his professional role, Stephen spent over twenty years working at the University of the West of England, initially as a lecturer and then as Professor of Engineering before retiring in 2005. In his spare time, Stephen relaxes by playing the double bass in two orchestras and the recorder with a chamber group. His wife Alison has also been a volunteer at the Bristol branch of Samaritans for 39 years.

On his new appointment as Chair of the national charity, Professor Stephen Hoddell says: “I have always believed that Samaritans plays a vital and unique role in helping people talk about their problems. Through the years I’ve seen the charity grow and move forward, but the callers are always at the heart of the service. I’m really looking forward to representing the volunteers throughout the UK and Ireland in the role of Chair over the next three years.”

Sophie Andrews, Chair of Samaritans, says: “As Chair it’s been exciting working with so many dedicated volunteers who give up their time to offer confidential support 24/7 to people who have no where else to turn. I know that Stephen’s years of volunteering with Samaritans will really help make a difference.”

Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive of Samaritans, says: “Sophie’s dedication has been inspiring and I’d like to thank her for the massive contribution she has made as Chair. It has been a privilege to work alongside her. We look forward to Stephen taking up the reins and helping us develop the charity as we head towards our 60th year.”


Notes to Editors:

About Samaritans

Samaritans provides confidential support, 24 hours a day for people feeling down, unhappy, anxious or struggling to cope.The charity is contacted more than five million times each year. That’s once every five seconds. Samaritans’ service is provided by its 18,750 volunteers, working from 201 branches, across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Around 6,000 people take their own life each year in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland – that’s 16 people every single day.

People do not have to be actively suicidal to call Samaritans. Around 80 per cent of the calls received by Samaritans are not about suicidal feelings.

Samaritans volunteers are available around the clock to offer confidential support by phone: 116 123, email or face-to-face, visit for details of your local branch.