Samaritans is the charity organization founded in 1953 by the vicar and part-time cartoonist Chad Varah. He was motivated to offer informal counseling to his parishioners after he held a funeral for a 14-year-old girl who commited suicide.
Eighteen years later, he founded the Samaritans to try to save the lives of more people including children who were about to commit suicide. The charity currently has 20,000 volunteers in the UK and Ireland and responds to a request for help every six seconds on average. More than 6,000 suicides were reported in the UK and Ireland in 2017, according to the charity, while the World Health Organization (WHO) found that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-29 worldwide in 2016 year.
Along with a Samaritan hotline (number) that people can call to speak to a volunteer listener 24 hours a day, the charity offers services such as face-to-face, text and email counseling, support and information for those struggling or worried about someone else, as well as programs in schools (childline), workplaces, prisons and the military. This includes conversations, workshops for teachers on how to develop emotional awareness and listening skills, on-the-job training for staff, and online training courses.
The key element of the Samaritans’ services is the helpline, which performs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Samaritans were the first 24/7 phone hotline established in the UK. In addition, the organization offers face-to-face communication services, educates inmates at festivals and other outdoor events, trains prisoners in Listener skills to support prison services, and conducts research on suicide and emotional health issues.
Since 1994, Samaritans has also ensured confidential support through emails. Initially, services were offered from one department, now the services are provided by 198 departments. They are all coordinated from the head office of the charity organization. In 2011, the Samaritans got over 206,000 emails, many from outside the UK, and intend to respond to each one within 24 hours.
In 2009, Ofcom introduced the first agreed European numbers for services of social value. The following numbers – 116 123 are belonging to the Samaritans. This number can be called for free from mobile and landlines.
Since September 22, 2015, Samaritans have upgraded 116123 as their primary number, replacing the previously announced 0845 with a higher rate.
In 2014, Samaritans received 5,100,000 calls for help by phone, email, text letter, MiniCom, Typetalk, face-to-face at the department, as part of their work in prisons, and at local and national festivals and other events.
Samaritan volunteers undergo extensive training. They are open-minded, empathic and congruent. By listening to and asking free response questions, Samaritan volunteers help people explore their feelings and cope with their problems. The Samaritans do not condemn suicide, and it is not necessary to be suicidal to contact Samaritans. In 2014, nearly 80% of people who call Samaritans organization were not suicidal. Samaritans believe that empowering people to be heard can alleviate despair and make emotional health a major concern.