Samaritans Ireland responds to one call for help every minute in last year

Phone providers extend support for free helpline as one million calls received since inception

-For immediate release-

Samaritans Ireland has seen a 30 per cent increase in calls in the 12-months to September 2015. The figure is included in the charity’s 2014 – 2015 Impact Report, which was launched today (16.12.15) by Minister of State with Responsibility for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch, TD. 

Samaritans branches across the country responded to 623,579 calls to its free helpline, 13,272 emails and 7,705 texts in the 12-month period from October 2014 to September 2015. There were also just fewer than 8,610 face-to-face visits at Samaritans branches across the Republic.

The charity credits the increase to the introduction of a free-to-call helpline in March 2014. Samaritans’ volunteers have answered one million phone calls since then. The free helpline is supported by Ireland’s six largest telecommunications providers - eir, Vodafone, Virgin, BT Ireland, Sky Ireland and Three – which have agreed to extend this commitment until 2019.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Catherine Brogan, Executive Director of Samaritans Ireland, said: “The dramatic increase in calls to our service shows that many people in Ireland are struggling to cope and need a place to turn for support.

“Removing the barrier of cost has made it easier for people to access support as they no longer have to worry about call charges. This is particularly important for the groups in society who we know are at increased risk of suicide and for whom cost is a deterrent. The continued support of the telecommunications industry allows us to focus on making our service as accessible as possible for all who need us.”

She added: “While the methods that people use to contact us may change, the main issues people contact us about remain consistent. These include family and relationship problems; financial worries; depression and mental health problems; loneliness; and stress and anxiety.”

The Impact Report showed that the busiest days of the week for the helpline were Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The busiest hours were from 8pm to midnight when many other support services are unavailable. Just fewer than 55% of calls were received from 6pm to 6am.

Also speaking at the launch, Professor Siobhan O’Neill from Ulster University, a leading figure in research programmes which focus on suicidal behaviour, said: “We know that being isolated and feeling like a burden on others are important factors that influence suicide attempts; and we know that human connections, a listening ear, a caring voice can frequently make the difference between someone deciding that they need to act now, or that they should pause and perhaps explore the alternatives. Samaritans’ attitude of non-judgemental, compassionate, confidential support from volunteers, who are there, by choice, because they really do care, is a precious and powerful piece of the complex jigsaw of suicide prevention work in Ireland.”

Minister of State for Mental Health, Primary Care and Social Care, Kathleen Lynch, TD, said:  “The support of the telecommunications industry and the dedication of  the 1,569 Samaritans volunteers across the country means that there is always someone to talk to if you are going through a difficult time. This support can be lifesaving.

“The industry’s support allows Samaritans to concentrate on what they do best - reaching out to the people in need and focusing on making their service as accessible as possible by expanding their network and targeting at risk groups”.

The Samaritans Ireland Impact Report can be accessed here.

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Press Contact:

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact Rachel Wright, Communications & Policy Manager, Samaritans Ireland, Tel: 085 860 5554/ 01 6710071 or email r.wright@samaritans.org

Note to Editors:

  • The free-to-call helpline can be accessed on 116 123.
  •  A partnership between Samaritans, the Telecom and Internet Federation (TIF), which consists of the major telecommunications and internet companies operational in Ireland, Government and the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), made it possible for Samaritans to introduce the free-to-call number in March 2014 for a two-year period.  The extension of the commitment has allowed Samaritans in Ireland to proceed with the next phase of their investment to double the total capacity of the helpline and move to a fully digital network.

About Samaritans Ireland:

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 in the Republic of Ireland, email jo@samaritans.org , or visit www.samaritans.ie   to find details of the nearest branch and to learn more about our work.