Recession-related calls accounted for around one in six made to Samaritans over the past year.
The statistic was revealed in the charity’s Impact Report for 2011-2012, which showed that 412,167 calls were received during the period.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, Samaritans Galway PRO Patricia Hynes, said that, in addition to recession-related calls, the main issues raised by those contacting its service include family issues, relationship problems, and loneliness, which she said is a “big problem” for many people.
The Samaritans is this year particularly highlighting the fact that men from disadvantaged backgrounds in their 30s, 40s and 50s are at higher risk of suicide than the rest of society, and encouraging them to come forward to talk about their concerns.
Along with its 24-hour confidential phone service for anyone experiencing distress, despair or suicidal thoughts, Samaritans also provide support via email, text message and letter, as well as face-to-face seven days a week at 14 Nun’s Island.
“At the centre in Nun’s Island anybody can call in from nine in the morning to eight in the evening, where they can meet with a Samaritans volunteer on a one-to-one basis and go through whatever issues in their own time.
“There is no compulsion to talk and whatever they want to say they say and if they don’t feel like telling us any more that’s fine too,” explained Patricia, who said that 35,000 contacts were made with the Galway branch alone in 2010-2011, averaging around 100 per day.
There are around 90 volunteers working with the Galway branch at any one time and the charity recruits twice a year, in January and September.
Other supports provided by Samaritans include an initiative that allows those concerned about online status updates posted their friends to report them to Facebook’s Help Centre. The centre will in turn contact Samaritans, who will get in touch with the original poster.
Samaritans have also been providing confidential emotional support on the streets of Ireland for the past 14 years through its festival branch, which this year attended Galway Arts Festival and the Volvo Ocean Race Grand Finale.
“Normally with the Samaritans we allow people to come to us…but with the festivals we actually go up and talk to people and see if they want to talk to us and want to get anything off their chest. If they do great, we’ll engage with them, if not, that’s fine,” said Patricia.
Almost 200 people sought emotional support from the Festival Branch during the Volvo Ocean Race, which Patricia said “goes to show that people do want to talk, sometimes they just might need a little more encouragement”.
This is also borne out by statistics that show that, while 412,167 calls were answered by the Samaritans’ telephone helpline from November 2011 to October 2012, 153,922 were silent calls or calls that lasted less than ten seconds.
“A lot of people will actually make contact with us maybe once or twice but won’t actually speak. It could be on the third contact that they might actually talk to us for whatever reason, the first or second time they might be too anxious or upset or maybe they might not hear the right voice on the other end of the phone, they mightn’t feel they could actually talk to that person,” said Patricia.
It currently costs callers just six cent to phone Samaritans from an Irish landline or 33 cent from a mobile phone, irrespective of how long the call lasts and the organisation also accepts reverse-charge calls and will make call-backs on request.
Early next year, however, a new freephone helpline number – 116 123 – will be launched with support from BT Ireland, eircom/Meteor, O2, Three, UPC and Vodafone.
Call the lo-call Samaritans helpline on 1850-609090, contact Samaritans Galway on 091-561222, or visit www.samaritans.org.