Picture caption: (l to r) Tom Chapman, Jonny Benjamin MBE, Verona White, Neil Laybourn

Samaritans’ Big Listen launches across the UK

From high streets to hair salons, supermarkets to stations, Samaritans has got the nation working on its listening skills for The Big Listen today.

Mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn, whose friendship came from Neil taking time to listen to Jonny when he felt suicidal, showed their support by going for a quick trim at Samaritan’s pop-up barber’s at King’s Cross station.

Hairdressers across the UK are backing the campaign to get everyone downloading Samaritans’ SHUSH! Listening Tips and taking time to let others talk. With an estimated 2,000 hours a year each spent listening to clients, they know the difference to people’s lives it makes.

Jonny Benjamin MBE said: “The simple and human act of listening is so important and it makes such a difference.”

Neil Laybourn said: It’s great that we are working together to raise awareness of the importance of listening and providing support for people in their communities.

Cutting Jonny’s hair was Tom Chapman from the Lions Barber Collective, an international group of top barbers who’ve come together to raise awareness to prevent suicide. Tom Chapman said: “We are stronger together and the more we can join up and get the message out about how crucial listening is, the better.”

Samaritans’ The Big Listen also has support from leading celebrity hairdresser, Verona White, who stopped by to style Neil’s hair. Verona White said: "Everyone needs someone to talk to and it’s not always family. A good listener will let people talk and read the person and be responsive, it’s not about giving advice.”

More than 150 events are being held across the UK to mark The Big Listen, timed for 24 July (24/7) to reflect the round the clock support Samaritans offers to anyone feeling overwhelmed. Hairdresser and Gogglebox star Stephen Webb is also backing The Big Listen, along with Haircuts4Homeless, who give their time and skills for free to people who are homeless or living rough.

Volunteers have also been out in force over the weekend sharing with the public the importance of being a good listener and giving out Samaritans’ SHUSH! Listening Tips. Up and down the country, iconic buildings are being lit up green in support of Samaritans’ campaign to get us all listening more.

Samaritans’ CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Three times more people die by suicide than from road accidents. Samaritans volunteers are trained to be good listeners, but this is a skill we can all learn. Many hairdressers are naturally good listeners and many more people can learn those skills too. I’m grateful to Jonny, Neil, Tom, Verona and everyone at Lions Barber Collective and Haircuts4Homeless for helping get that message out there. Together we will save lives.”

You can find out more about The Big Listen and Samaritans’ SHUSH! Listening Tips at www.samaritans.org or on Facebook www.facebook.com/samaritanscharity or follow the activity @samaritans on Twitter, using the hashtag #TheBigListen.

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

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  • Anyone can call Samaritans, you don’t have to be suicidal. Whatever you’re going through, call us for free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.
  • Samaritans responds to more than 5.7 million calls for help every year, offering emotional support by phone, email, text and face to face in its 201 branches across the UK and Republic of Ireland.  For more information please see www.samaritans.org.
  • It’s the public’s kind donations and more than 20,000 trained volunteers that mean Samaritans is always there for anyone struggling to cope.  Find out how you can support us: http://www.samaritans.org/support-us