Today, Monday was Samaritan's Awareness Day.
So what? And what even is that? I can actually hear a few of you saying this, as you deliberate about reading this article. Another 'awareness' day. Basically every day is one, anyway.
I said the same thing before writing this. I had little idea about this group. It's saved more lives than some doctors ever do, and it's run by volunteers. It was the first 'emergency hotline' for people in crisis. It is available, all day, all night, everyday, every night. For free.
And it is something to be aware of indeed.
And so this day aims to raise awareness of the services that the Samaritans offer around the UK and Ireland.
They have 201 branches around the UK and Ireland, which are available to help people in need 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Whenever someone needs help, they are there to listen. The Samaritans was the first telephone support service for people in need, more that 60 years ago, aiming to help them before it was too late. It began in 1953, when Chad Varah wanted to help people that were in trouble, when they had one else to turn to. He was a vicar, yet he set up a non-religious organisation in order to help people in their darkest times of crisis.
Chad called it the "999 for the suicidal," regarding himself as a "a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone."
It is not a service based upon religion, it is based upon listening, a 'safe space' and providing support at a critical time that is non-judgemental.
The vision of the Samaritans is that 'fewer people die by suicide'. And that, I'm sure, is a vision we can all get behind. They aim to deliver this vision by the telephone support, reaching out to at risk groups, and raising the level of public education around suicide and suicide prevention.
They listen, in total confidence, to those in need. The support that they provide is non-judgmental. It enables people to make their own decisions where possible, as this is more likely to give them a chance at lasting change in their lives. And they are committed to trying to meet fundamental human emotional needs and to reduce despair by giving connection, undivided attention, time and empathy.
And at the heart of this service are the volunteers. It is a volunteer-led organisation. They support people, as well as carry out outreach programs, fundraising activities and many other roles.
If you feel like you need help, or are concerned someone you know does, contact the Samaritans or any healthcare professionals. Support is available, all day, every day, and even in the darkest of night.
And remember that when it's the darkest, it's often just before the dawn.
For more information, see www.samaritans.org or #samaritansawarenessday.
The Samaritans can be contacted on email@example.com, freecall 116 123, or on 020 8394 8300.