Calls to Samaritans soar 30% in past year

Calls to the Samaritans have jumped by 30% in the last year — as more and more people in distress contact the charity.

Calls to Samaritans soar 30% in past year

The figure is contained in the charity’s 2014-2015 impact report which reveals that 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.

The charity credits the increase to the introduction of a free-to-call helpline in March 2014. Its 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.

There were also just over 8,610 face-to-face visits at Samaritans branches across the country. The five main issues that arose when people contacted the charity were: family/relationship problems, depression and mental health issues, loneliness, stress/anxiety and financial problems.

The charity received more than 1,700 contacts every day in the 12 months from October of 2014 to September of this year — an increase of 398 calls a day on average, compared to the previous year.

Volunteers in Ireland gave 77,261 hours or 4,635,660 minutes in listening time to the organisation’s helpline — an increase of 7,332 hours since last year.

The average length of call to the helpline is 12 minutes — however, calls can go for significantly longer.

The busiest days of the week for the helpline are Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The busiest hours were from 8pm to midnight when many other support services are unavailable. Just over half of all calls are received from 6pm to 6am. In Britain and Ireland, Samaritans answers over five million calls for help every year — one call every six seconds.

Speaking at the launch of the report, executive director of Samaritans Ireland, Catherine Brogan, said the figures showed there were thousands of people in Ireland struggling to cope and in need of 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,” she said. “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.

Professor Siobhan O’Neill, from Ulster University, a leading figure in research programmes which focus on suicidal behaviour, said that simple human contact can often be enough for someone to seek help.

“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,” she said.

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