Samaritans embark on outreach project to get men talking

They’re normally on the end of the phone providing a reassuring ear, but now the Samaritans in Cork are embarking on an outreach pilot project which the charity hopes to roll out nationwide.

Cindy O’Shea, director of the charity’s Cork branch, said her organisation is starting to work with the Men’s Shed movement.

“We’ve had a fantastic reaction. We want to train them to support each other. It’s about mental health and outreach team members going out there talking to them and getting them to discuss openly their feelings and emotions,” Ms O’Shea said.

Pio Fenton, Samaritans Ireland voluntary director, said he hoped to eventually roll the outreach pilot scheme out nationally.

Mr Fenton also revealed that the charity is in talks with Teagasc officials based in Moorepark, near Kilworth, about setting up an outreach programme to deal with rural isolation.

He said it was all part of a new strategy “to get out into the community” and to encourage people to socialise more.

The Samaritans have identified a new ‘at risk’ group and it is in the process of designing a campaign around male callers aged between 35-55, which it hopes to launch next year.

Mr Fenton said these men, mainly “primary breadwinners” felt that because of the recession they were unable to live up to family expectations, such as providing money for cars, holidays, etc.

Mr Fenton said he expected calls to the Samaritans to be marginally up this year on the 400,000 times their 1,400 volunteers were contacted in 2011. Interestingly, there has been an increase in the number of people volunteering to help with the Samaritans since the recession struck.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr John Buttimer praised the role of the Cork branch which has 130 volunteers.

“In any therapeutic relationship the most important thing is that there is somebody there that is non-judgmental and who will listen. That is what the Samaritans do, they listen,” Mr Buttimer said.

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