Samaritans attends Buckingham Palace event marking World Mental Health Day

Samaritans volunteers, staff, callers and CEO Ruth Sutherland are attending a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, to mark World Mental Health Day (Tuesday 10 October).

The royals will be meeting a number of people who have experience of mental health care and suicide prevention in different ways.

Ruth said: “The Duke and Duchess and Prince Harry have made clear their commitment to promoting positive mental health through talking openly about their own experiences and getting involved with mental health campaigns. I am looking forward to meeting them with Nicola, Mark, Steven and Dawn.

“This is a great opportunity to look at what can be done to improve mental health and suicide prevention with people who have direct experience.”

Nicola Gee got in touch with the Samaritans when she was feeling overwhelmed while away from home for first time at university. The 26-year-old from Reading didn’t think friends would understand and reached out for help.

“At first, I was too apprehensive to call, I thought that I wouldn’t know what to say, so the text service worked best for me,” she said.

“Samaritans gives people undivided attention and really listen.  Some feelings are so strong, I don’t want to tell friends and family. Before I used Samaritans, I’d end up alone with them and feel depressed but now I have the confidence to talk before I reach that point. I can manage the way I feel much better and this has changed my life.”

Nicola went on to take part in 24 running events in support of Samaritans raising over £4,000. She also shared her story in the media, and was interviewed by Women’s Running magazine, the Reading Post and the Guardian.

Steven, 33 from Kilmarnock, Scotland, called Samaritans after losing a friend to suicide and he started experiencing anxious feelings. He began self-harming and started to think he needed to end his life. He said: “The volunteers literally saved my life and I’m so grateful for that.”

“I think it’s important for more people to share their stories and I hope that by telling people about my experiences it will show that men can still be seen as strong, even when talking about their emotions.”

Steven went back to college and now works with young people, and has become the first qualified Boxercise instructor in a wheel chair in the UK.

Mark Harris lost his younger brother to suicide in February 2006 and just over two years later qualified as a listening volunteer with Central London Samaritans. He joined the staff team 18 months later and has been the Outreach Manager since October 2013.  

The 46-year-old from east London organises the emotional support and awareness raising that takes place outside the branch. This includes co-ordinating a team of volunteers to offer support to those affected by the London Bridge attack and the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mark said: “I’m honoured to be attending the event on behalf of Samaritans and didn’t really think it was real when I read my invitation. Princes William and Harry are leading the way as high profile men willing to talk about their emotions. I look forward to meeting the many other guests who will be there on the night.”

Dawn Robinson began volunteering at Guilford in 2004 and has been involved in a number roles, including Branch Director and Deputy Regional Director. She was also Functional Lead for Caller Support between 2012 and 2015, and is volunteering again after a break.

Dawn said: “I was very surprised and curious to receive an envelope with a Buckingham Palace postmark. When I opened it, the surprise turned to shock and then I felt quite emotional. It feels a huge honour to have been invited and on reflection a real privilege to be representing Samaritans at such an event.”

For further information, please contact Samaritans’ press office on 020 8394 8300 or press@samaritans.org.

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Notes to editors:

  • You don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans. You can call us free anytime from any phone,  contact us via email, text or go to www.samaritans.org for details of your latest branch
  • Samaritans responds to more than 5.7 million calls for help every year
  • It is the public’s kind donations which keep Samaritans service going. To donate please go to:  https://www.samaritans.org/support-us/donate-online