Trivia Question – What occurs (on average) 84 x week?
That’s the number of men who commit suicide and the rate for men is several x that of women. This and other data are the subject of a talk given by Julian Smith at London Lunchtimers at The Freemasons’ Arms in Long Acre.
Most of us know the story of The Good Samaritan where an outcast/foreigner helps a victim of an attack while people of his own community pass by on the other side of the road. Founded in 1953 by The Reverend Prebendary Chad Varah, The Samaritans was the first 24 hour helpline for those feeling suicidal. These days you don’t have to be suicidal to call them 116 123 N.B. there is no 0800 prefix although calls are free. The organisation is now international Befrienders Worldwide
Revd Varah’s talents weren’t confined to his clerical duties. Closely involved with fellow clergyman Marcus Morris, he helped found The Eagle boys’ magazine (and it’s sister publications Girl, Robin and Swift) helping out as a script writer and “Scientific and Astronautical Consultant”. Amazing to think that the stories I and a whole generation of boys enjoyed in our youth, were written by the founder of an organisation trying to help people who were suicidal.
Speaking in 2004, Chad Varah said The Samaritans was no longer the organisation he founded, being an organisation for emotional support rather than an emergency organisation as he intended.
Abusers call The Samaritans too
Unsurprisingly, many callers have been (or still are) the victims of sexual or other abuse. Once awareness of this increased in the 80s largely thanks to the efforts of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life programme, The Samaritans were surprised to receive calls from abusers too. And some people with nothing better to do, just call to abuse The Samaritans…..
No records are kept of callers and if they call more than once they will almost certainly get a different person on the end of the phone. The support is given without any attempt to create a bond between the Samaritans volunteer and the caller, because Samaritans are not counsellors, they encourage callers to find their own solutions. Where the call is exceptionally difficult, there are procedures for getting the Ambulance service or other authorities involved.
The Samaritans service is anonymous. They have no way of getting a caller’s number and do not trace calls. If requested they can call someone back, but the caller would have to explicitly give their number. Training takes place over 10 weeks. A minimum commitment of 4 hours a week is required and work is done from local offices – never from home. This is unlike volunteers/staff at The Pensions Advisory Service for example.
Julian has been doing this work for 10 years now (his background is in IT) modestly mentioning that the work changes you for the better. Besides being a daytime or night owl “Listener” other volunteers help with admin, finance/bookkeeping, IT & web support and fund raising.
Links: The Samaritans