Press release: Samaritans celebrate life of founder, Chad Varah

Helpline charity Samaritans today (12 November) celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the birth of its founder, Chad Varah.

Born on 12 November 1911, Chad dedicated his life to listening to people struggling to cope until his death in 2007. 

He set up Samaritans to befriend those who had nowhere else to turn.

Chad Varah’s inspiration for founding Samaritans came when he conducted his first funeral as a young assistant curate.

The funeral was for a 14-year-old girl who had taken her own life because she feared she was seriously ill, when in fact she had started to menstruate.

Chad wanted to create a confidential support service and in 1953 Samaritans became the world’s first 24 hour helpline.

Through Chad’s work, Samaritans contributed to raising the profile of the issue of suicide at a time when it was illegal.

The charity was commended in a parliamentary debate on the suicide bill in July 1961. Mr Eric Fletcher, then MP for Islington East, recommended that the medical profession and police put people in touch with Samaritans.

Chad knew that if a distressed person could be given time to be listened to, without being judged, they could start to find a way through even the most difficult feelings.

Felicity Varah Harding, Chad’s daughter, says:

Samaritans receives five million calls a year, that’s one every five seconds. Without the commitment of all the dedicated volunteers, both past and present, we couldn’t keep the service running. My father would’ve been thrilled to know that the charity’s 18,750 volunteers are continuing his legacy; reaching out to those struggling to cope.”

Stephen Hoddell, Chair of Samaritans, said:

Chad’s inspiration has been infectious. From one man and his phone it has developed into a movement which has spread around the UK, Ireland and further afield through our international branches. Our principles have never changed - we’re here round the clock for anyone who needs to talk in confidence.”

Samaritans is available for anyone feeling down, depressed or anxious. Volunteers can be contacted 24/7 to offer confidential support by phone: 116 123, email or face-to-face; visit for details of your local branch.



For more information, photos and interviews, please contact Elspeth in Samaritans press office on 0208 394 8300 or email Out of hours, please call 07943 809162.

Notes to editors:

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% of the people who contact Samaritans do not express suicidal feelings.