Samaritans Awareness Day is on Friday 24 July 2020, with Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub this year more than ever eager to highlight the value of local and national services provided by the charity Samaritans.
Samaritans is a well-known UK and Ireland organisation which provides talking and listening support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide.
The core of Samaritans’ activity is a free 24-hour telephone helpline, operational every day of the year and supported by 21,000 trained Volunteer Listeners across the country. Additionally, the organisation provides email, letter writing and self-help app support to those in need, as well as (ordinarily but not at present due to COVID-19) drop-in services, outreach work and prison visitation.
Coinciding with Samaritans Awareness Day, Samaritans promotes its #TalkToUs campaign every July. This seeks to raise awareness that the organisation’s services are available at all times to people experiencing depression, anxiety, anguish, fear, worry, suicidal thoughts or other negative emotions.
The importance and impact of the work of Samaritans has been magnified during 2020 as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Samaritans has reported that, since lockdown restrictions were imposed in March, one in three callers have talked about coronavirus, with many people feeling more anxious and distressed than ever before as a result of the crisis.
Interesting, an analysis of Samaritans calls has found that the most common concerns related to coronavirus are around loneliness, isolation, mental health, illness, family, finances and unemployment. Mary McNeil, Development Manager at Cornerstone House Centre, commented:
“On Samaritans’ Awareness Day, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub stands in support of the priceless, compassionate and life-enhancing help which the charity Samaritans provides to people in our communities every day.
“In particular, we recognise and applaud the effort of the Cumbernauld volunteers of Samaritans and similar support organisations who have put aside their own concerns during these uncertain and challenging times to be there for others who are struggling.
“Indeed, these volunteers have been a much-needed source of support for those whose regular networks haven’t been available during the pandemic.
“We would encourage anyone who is finding it difficult to cope at present and is in need of emotional help not to hesitate to telephone or email Samaritans at any time of the day or night.”
Samaritans was founded in 1953 by Chad Varah, an English vicar who was moved by his experience of taking a funeral of a 14-year old girl who had committed suicide because she feared she had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. In actual fact, the girl had been menstruating and Varah believed that the tragedy could have been prevented with the right intervention.
On the back of this, Varah placed an advertisement in a newspaper encouraging people to volunteer at his church, listening to those contemplating suicide. The movement grew rapidly from there, and within ten years there were 40 branches in the UK, including in Scotland as of 1959.
Today, there are 201 Samaritans branches across the UK and Ireland, with branches in Falkirk, Glasgow and Hamilton geographically the closest to Cumbernauld. Whilst face-to-face services are currently postponed due to the pandemic, branches continue to operate their telephone and email services as normal.
Reasons why people call or email Samaritans are wide-ranging. Examples include the experiencing of relationship or family problems, loss of a friend or family member through bereavement, job or study related stress, having suicidal thoughts and difficulty coping as a result of physical pain or health conditions, to name just a few.
Individuals calling or emailing Samaritans can be assured of complete confidentiality. In fact, unless a service user gives consent to pass on information, the organisation adheres to a strict code of confidentiality even after the death of a caller.
Despite its church-related origins and its connation for some of the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, Samaritans identifies itself as a non-religious organisation. As such, Volunteer Listeners are wary not to impose any personal attitudes or beliefs on service users.
Alternatively to Samaritans, people living in Cumbernauld feeling isolated or in need of someone to talk to during the coronavirus pandemic can telephone or email Cornerstone House Centre’s Cumbernauld CHaT (Community Help and Talk) Service.
Supported by The National Lottery Community Fund and Corra Foundation, Cumbernauld CHaT Service aims to act as a first stop shop for advice, guidance, signposting, social contact and practical assistance for people living in Greater Cumbernauld during the COVID-19 crisis.
As with Samaritans, the provision incorporates a telephone helpline, which is open from 9am-9pm every day, and an email support service. Furthermore, The Cumbernauld Coronavirus 101 Directory, a user-friendly publication which details 101 organisations, services, supports and resources (including Samaritans) which may be of benefit to Cumbernauld citizens during this difficult period, can be downloaded by clicking on the highlighted link.
A Cornerstone House Centre report published earlier this month revealed that Cumbernauld CHaT Service has been invaluable in alleviating several of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown for a significant number of people living in the local area, notably older people, families on low incomes and people with physical or mental health conditions.
Cumbernauld CHaT Service can be contacted seven days per week on 07940 569527 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A member of the team will discuss the need that you have and seek to help in the most suitable, practical and compassionate way.
If you are feeling distressed, you can phone Samaritans free of charge on 116 123 or email email@example.com. The telephone helpline is open at all times and the organisation aims to respond to emails within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, letters to Samaritans can be addressed to Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, Stirling, FK8 2SA.