Athlone Samaritans have had their busiest year to date answering more calls than ever before. Details of the increase in use of Samaritans’ vital service were revealed in the 2013-2014 Impact Report covering Samaritans’ work in Ireland which was launched this week.
According to the report, over 478,200 calls to the helpline, almost 12,000 emails and over 8,000 texts were answered by Samaritans volunteers, nationally. There were also just under 8,700 face-to-face visits to Samaritans branches across the Republic.
The increase has mostly been seen in calls to the helpline which have increased by 52 per cent since Samaritans launched a free to caller number - 116 123 - in March 2014. Before this, Samaritans operated a Lo-call 1850 number. A partnership between Samaritans, the telecommunications industry, Government and the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP ) has made it possible to call Samaritans no cost to the caller.
Teresa Bell, director of Athlone Samaritans, said: “The figures show that there is clearly a huge demand for our service and we are aware - from the nature of our calls - that many people in Ireland are struggling to cope. It is now easier for people to call us and we have seen a significant increase in calls as result. Our volunteers are busier than ever and have increased the amount of listening hours they provide by over 38 per cent since the number was launched.”
The issues which people contact Samaritans about have remained consistent over the last number of years. These include family and relationship problems, financial worries, depression and mental health problems, loneliness, and stress and anxiety.
Ms Bell continued: “It is important that people know that they can talk to us about whatever is getting to them. Some people think that you have to be suicidal to talk to Samaritans but that is not the case. We are here for anyone who needs to talk. It doesn’t matter what kind of problem our callers have, however big or small it may seem compared to the problems other people have. What matters to us is how their life is making them feel.
“Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year. Many of our callers have told us that Christmas is a tough time for them, which is why our volunteers will be available throughout the Christmas period, for anyone who is struggling to cope, including on Christmas Day. We’re incredibly grateful to the inspirational people who keep our service running every single day of the year when many others are closed.”
Samaritans’ helpline number in the Republic of Ireland is 116 123. Further information about the organisation’s work is available at www.samaritans.ie