Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reduction in calls to Samaritans attributed to increase in hope

Minister of State for Disability, Equality and Mental Health Kathleen Lynch at the launch of the Samaritans’ annual impact report in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke
There has been a “change in the emotional landscape of Ireland” in the past year with “more hope this year than last,” the head of the Samaritans has said.

Pio Fenton, regional director of Samaritans Ireland, said this was reflected in a fall in the total number of calls received by the organisation.

Releasing the organisation’s Impact Report for the year, he said more and more people were, however, ringing in search of help outside normal office hours.

Statistics just released by the Samaritans show a rise in the number of calls for help made between midnight and 6am. This rise is more than at any other time of the day or night.

Weekend peak
Some 37 per cent of calls are made to the organisation’s helpline within these hours, with a peak during the hour after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. In total, 68 per cent of calls are made outside office hours.

“When traditional organisations are not available, our own is available,” Mr Fenton said. “That is a potent message. Our volunteer base is enthused about being there for people in the dead of night and in those unglamorous hours.”

He said 55,000 to 56,000 hours of careful listening over the past year by the Samaritans had shown the scale of “human stories” throughout society.

“These have all involved a person who is in need and a volunteer who is supporting that person,” he said. “The essence of our service is humanity.”

Cath Brogan, executive director of Samaritans Ireland, praised the organisation’s volunteers, saying their work “underlies what can be done by people for the right reasons”.

Looking to the year ahead, she said the Samaritans would work to “become more accessible and more visible”.

Volunteers needed

More volunteers were needed, especially to work at night in response to growing need, and more charitable donations were needed to fund their work. She looked forward to March and the roll-out of a freephone service.

Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch, who attended the launch, said the coming Christmas season would add to the stresses many people have to face. 

“Christmas brings extra pressures,” she said. “We are expected to be happy. Expectations are far too high.”

“It can be then that we need someone – a stranger – to talk to. It is much easier to talk to someone you feel that you will never meet. But of course, with Samaritan volunteers you could meet them every day, we just don’t recognise them.”

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