The organisation we now know as Samaritans came into being on 2 November 1953 when the first phone call was made to the number which founder Chad Varah referred to as “999 for the suicidal”.From these early days in a London church hall Samaritans has grown to 201 branches throughoutthe United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland staffed by over 20,000 volunteers. There are 20branches in Scotland stretching from Shetland to the Borders including Perth which started work in 1970.
Samaritans' vision is that fewer people die by suicide and this is underpinned by the values of listening, confidentiality, allowing people to make their own decisions, being non-judgemental and offering human contact. Samaritans is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of emotional distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide. While the telephone call remains vitally important, support is also given by e-mail, SMS text, face-to-face meeting and traditional letterwriting. As well as supporting callers directly, Samaritans works with other organisations to reduce suicide, for example in partnership with Network Rail to reduce railway suicide and with the Scottish Prison Service to provide trained Listeners who operate in all Scottish prisons and offer support to fellow prisoners, one of the highest-risk groups for suicide.
People do not have to be suicidal to call Samaritans and statistics show that only about one caller in five is actually feeling suicidal. There is no typical call. Sometimes people contact Samaritans because of a single problem although more often it is because a number of problems have mounted up and the caller is finding it hard to cope. What one person might consider a small issue could be huge to somebody else. There is no limit to the issues which can arise but common examples include relationship and family problems, bereavement, financial worries, stress, loneliness, depression and dependency on drugs or alcohol. Many callers have no-one else to turn to.
Samaritan volunteers are ordinary people who, after training, give up 3-4 hours a week to support our callers. Volunteers are of all ages and from all walks of life united by the common vision that fewer people should die by suicide. Whatever the initial reason for joining, most volunteers feel that they get a lot back whether from the satisfaction of helping someone through a tough time, meeting like-minded colleagues or gaining new skills. As Chad Varah put it, “There are in this world, in every country people who seem to be ordinary but who, when meeting a suicidal or distressed person, turn out to be extraordinary”
Could you be that ordinary person who turns out to be extraordinary? Perth Samaritans is always looking for new volunteers and we will be delighted to hear from anyone who might be interested in joining.
To find out more call 07908 874017, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the
national website www.samaritans.org.