Samaritans’ Founder Honoured with Historic Plaque

The founder of Samaritans’ suicide prevention helpline has been honoured with a commemorative plaque in the church where he took the very first call in 1953.

Dr Chad Varah, who was the Rector of St Stephen Walbrook Parish Church in the City of London, was moved to set up the service after a 14-year-old parishioner took her own life, believing she had no one to turn to. In doing so he created the world’s first 24-hour helpline.

The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman Alan Yarrow, unveiled the plaque in Chad Varah’s memory on Friday 17 April 2015 alongside Samaritans’ Chief Executive, Catherine Johnstone. She paid tribute to his outstanding legacy of support for those struggling to cope.

“Chad Varah believed that simply listening to people talk through their problems could help save lives. He began Samaritans with just one telephone and recruited volunteers to run the service day and night. It’s wonderful to see how the charity has grown and flourished since he took his first call. Our principles have never changed, we’re here round the clock for anyone who needs to talk in confidence about whatever’s getting to them.”

Today Samaritan’s volunteers deal with more than five million calls each year across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The service is delivered all day every single day of the year by 21,200 volunteers from 201 local branches.

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For more information about the work of Samaritans please contact The Press Office on 020 8394 8300 or email

Notes to editors:

  • Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123, email, or visit to find details of the nearest branch.