Demand for help from Samaritans hits all-time high

The Samaritans is seeking to expand its services after figures showed it was contacted more than 500,000 times in the past year, with one in five calls from people feeling suicidal.

Demand for help from Samaritans hits all-time high

The extent of family pressures, financial hardship, and mental health concerns from around the country were starkly illustrated by the Samaritans’ 2013-14 Impact Report, which revealed:

- More than 478,200 calls were made to the helpline;

- 12,000 emails and 8,000 texts were answered by volunteers;

- There were 8,700 face- to-face visits at its branches around the country.

It meant demand for Samaritans’ services has reached an all-time high, yet the organisation managed to increase the number of listening hours it provided by 38% over the same period.

Executive director Catherine Brogan said the launch of a freephone number, 116 123, in March had contributed to a 52% increase in calls.

Ms Brogan said the average length of calls had fallen from 14 minutes to 12 minutes. “That tells us that people are contacting us sooner,” she said.

However, one in five calls were made by people who said they were feeling suicidal, a figure she said had remained consistent in recent years.

The reasons people make contact with the Samaritans also mirrored those of previous years, namely family and relationship problems, financial worries, depression and mental health problems, loneliness, stress, and anxiety.

It received an average of 1,310 daily contacts in the year to October — an increase of 266 calls a day compared to the previous 12 months.

Ms Brogan said methods of allowing people further access to services online are being explored.

Regional director Robert McBride said volunteers had shown “extraordinary dedication” in providing 63,659 hours of listening time over the last year. “We hope to grow our volunteer base further in the coming year,” he said.

To contact Samaritans,

Freephone 116 123, or log onto www.samaritans.ie

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