Samaritans volunteers answering 1,000 calls every day

Samaritans volunteers answering 1,000 calls every day
Executive Director, Samaritans Ireland, Niall Mulligan: Samaritans work needed now more than ever. File Picture.

Covid-19 has been a challenge for Samaritans Ireland but the charity's dedicated volunteers ensured that the service was always there for those who needed it.

The organisation's regional director for the Republic of Ireland, Rory Fitzgerald, said the public health crisis magnified issues such as loneliness and isolation, as well as family and relationship issues.

Volunteers recently reported that Covid-19 is mentioned by one-in-three callers. Loneliness is also a growing issue and emerges in around four-out-of-ten calls.

“We experienced a drop in volunteer numbers due to self-isolation, shielding and cocooning but we were able to manage this by some volunteers doubling up on their number of shifts per week,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

The organisation is monitoring the national rota every day to identify key areas of difficulty and doing everything humanly possible to keep the 24/7 helpline open.

According to a spokesperson, Covid-19 is not necessarily the main feature of most calls but it is in the background, if not the foreground, for many.

Public health restrictions have eased but many people still face an uncertain future, with some people losing their jobs and business and others facing challenging financial circumstances.

Volunteers answer over 1,000 calls every day and, since the coronavirus pandemic, the calls have not only increased, they have become longer and more intense.

With over 2,300 volunteers in 22 branches across Ireland, Samaritans are a lifeline for those who have nowhere to go to and the organisation is supporting more people every year.

Samaritans Ireland volunteers answered more than half a million calls across the island of Ireland last year, according to the charity's 2019 Impact Report.

Volunteers spent around 15 minutes on the phone with each caller last year and in the Republic of Ireland the 431,871 calls received added up to 71,370 hours. 

There were also 2,416 face-to-face contacts and 19,989 emails to Samaritans Ireland.

The organisation's executive director, Niall Mulligan, said the work of Samaritans Ireland was never more needed.

"Together, we've brought about positive changes that take us closer to our vision that fewer lives are lost to suicide in Ireland," he said.

The organisation has urged the Government to put mental health and wellbeing centre stage of its health and social policies as the country reopens and continues its recovery process.

People needing emotional support can call Samaritans Ireland's freephone 116 123 24/7 or email jo@samaritans.ie.

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