Samaritans (charity)

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Samaritans (until 2002 known as The Samaritans) is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in distress or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, often through their telephone helpline. The name comes from the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, though the organisation is not religious. Its international network exists under the name Befrienders Worldwide, which is part of the Volunteer Emotional Support Helplines (VESH) with Lifeline International and the International Federation of Telephone Emergency Services (IFOTES).



Samaritans was founded in 1953 by Chad Varah, a vicar in the London Diocese. His inspiration came from an experience he had some years earlier as a young curate in the Diocese of Lincoln. He had carried out a funeral for a young girl of 15 who had killed herself because she feared she had contracted an STD. In reality she was menstruating.[1] Varah placed an advertisement in a newspaper encouraging people to volunteer at his church, listening to people contemplating suicide.[2] The movement grew rapidly: within ten years there were 40 branches and there are now 201 branches across the UK and Ireland, deliberately organised without regard to national boundaries on the basis that a service which is not political or religious should not recognise sectarian or political divisions.[3] Samaritans offers support through approximately 17,000 trained volunteers and is entirely dependent on voluntary support. The name was not originally chosen by Chad Varah: it was part of a headline to an article in the Daily Mirror newspaper on 7/12/1953 about Varah's work.[4]

In 2004 Samaritans announced that volunteer numbers had reached a thirty-year low, and launched a campaign to recruit more young people (specifically targeted at ages 18–24) to become volunteers. The campaign was fronted by Phil Selway, drummer with the band Radiohead, himself a Samaritans volunteer.

Samaritans' vision is that fewer people die by suicide.[5]

Samaritans' work

The core of Samaritans' work is a telephone helpline, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In addition, the organisation offers a drop-in service for face-to-face discussion, undertakes outreach at festivals and other outdoor events, trains prisoners as "Listeners" to provide support within prisons, and undertakes research into suicide and emotional health issues.

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