When life feels unbearable and overwhelming, sometimes it’s easier to type than talk
When turning to Samaritans, there are many reasons why someone may find it easier to chat online rather than talk on the phone. Every hour of every day, our volunteers hear from many people who feel anxious or scared about calling. Sometimes a caller will explain that what they’ve been through is so horrific or so heartbreaking that they don’t want to say it out loud.
We want everyone who needs us to be able to get support in a way that’s right for them. That’s why Samaritans is launching a brand-new online chat service. This service will make it possible for anyone who is struggling to cope to have a live conversation with a Samaritan online.
Please support our online chat appeal
“I was living in London away from family and was under a lot of pressure with work. I’d have anxiety every day. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. After another bad day, I was waiting for the tube and some dark thoughts came into my head. I was in a head space I hadn’t been in before and it frightened me.
"By the time I got home I was an absolute mess and I couldn’t stop crying. It got to later in the night and I didn’t want to call my friends or family and scare them. My housemate suggested I call someone who could help, and I looked for Samaritans online.
"I remember I kept apologising for crying. I couldn’t get my words out. The person on the end of the phone was so patient. I needed to get it off my chest, but I was terrified as I hadn’t had those feelings before.
"I genuinely believed that there was only one way I could get out of the situation, but the more I spoke to him, the more I calmed down. He was incredible.
"He saved my life. He 100% saved my life.”
Someone had taken that time to listen to me. I felt worthy of giving myself a chance to wake up tomorrow.
Victoria got the help she needed that night, but she recognises how good it would have been to talk online. “It takes a lot to seek help”, she says. “If there was someone there online when I went on the website to look for the number, I would have spoken to them.”
“There’s such a huge comfort knowing that there is someone waiting on the other end. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to type it than to say it out loud.”
Victoria is feeling positive about the future and is running the London Marathon for Samaritans this April.
Tom was one of our volunteers who took part in a series of pilots last summer. Over 20 hours, with no advertising of the service whatsoever, we had 398 online chats with people looking for support online.
“Online chat means we are able to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t have made contact. We can offer better support to those that we are supporting already, but we are also opening the door to a whole host of new people who might have chosen not to reach out for help.
"People might choose online chat over calling for a number of reasons. Some people might have anxiety about talking on the phone. They may not be in the position to have the conversation out loud, as it might compromise their personal safety or it might be that they are in a public space. It’s also more inclusive for people who have hearing loss or speech impediments that make it difficult for them to communicate out loud.
"As a volunteer, online chat requires you to read between the lines more, as you don’t have the vocal cues that you would be able to pick up on the phone. However, it’s a lot closer to phone calls than you might think, as it still requires all the skills that we have been trained to use as a listening volunteer – talking as a human being to a human being."
It is still making a connection and building a rapport, as well as making sure they feel comfortable to share what’s on their mind.
Tom, Samaritans volunteer
"I found being part of the online chat pilots really uplifting – particularly the first ever session, as there was a real sense of anticipation. The experience of helping people through online chat was very refreshing, as you can spend more time helping people and having a direct conversation one on one with someone; unlike email, which can involve a lot of reading through previous conversations.
"It was remarkable how quickly the messages started coming through. We flipped the switch and in minutes we had people messaging, so it shows how much demand there will be for the service.”
Suicide is the biggest killer of young people aged 20-34
Online chat could change everything
Find out why we need online chat to save more lives
The way people communicate is changing; here at Samaritans we need to change too. The launch of our online chat service is a once-in-a-generation change to our listening service. We’re asking every supporter to help save more lives, by making a donation today which could help us to roll out the service.
Here’s why it matters.
Why is Samaritans launching an online chat service?
Mobile phones and tablets are everywhere. We’re all using digital forms of written communication more often, while making fewer traditional voice calls. We don’t want anyone to struggle alone, so we need our service to be available in a way that suits everyone.
Is this new service in addition to the phone, email and face-to-face listening service?
Absolutely. Better awareness of good mental health and strained NHS services mean we’re responding to more people who are struggling to cope than ever before. The pressures on our service are increasing, so our service needs to meet this challenge.
Who is the new service for?
It’s for anyone who would rather talk online than on the phone. We urgently need the service for those who are at increased risk of suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of young people aged 20-34. Worryingly suicide rates have been going up amongst 15-19 year-olds. Samaritans’ vision is that fewer people die by suicide. Online chat will help us get there. Online chat will also make it possible for people with certain disabilities to use our service for the very first time.
What are the advantages of talking to a Samaritans volunteer online?
You can do it anywhere, discreetly, on any smartphone, tablet or laptop. When the service is available 24/7, anyone will be able to seek help online at any time.
How can I support this special online chat appeal?
Please visit samaritans.org/chatappeal or call 03709 00 00 32.
Please support our online chat appeal