Someone to listen around the clock – the 24/7 Samaritans Awareness Day
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 23 July 2020
The issue of mental health has become far more openly discussed in the UK in recent times. However, it is clear that more needs to be done to help people overcome the barriers to seeking help.
This hinges on tackling the stigmas involved – particularly among men – but also stimulating greater awareness of the confidential sources of mental health assistance.
One of the organisations who has done most to address the issue for many years is the Samaritans, which will hold its Talk to Us campaign this July.
This annual event – which usually includes a 24/7 Samaritans Awareness Day – will throw the spotlight on the work this vital charity does. This is not about ‘blowing their own trumpet’. It will show the importance of raising enough funds to support their work, as well as highlighting how many more people could benefit from their 24/7 availability.
By ringing 116 123, anyone can reach a friendly, well trained and anonymous Samaritan, who can offer non-judgemental and impartial support for any crisis or concern.
What happens during the Samaritans Awareness campaign?
This annual event features talks, presentations and local fundraising events across the UK. There is generally something going on in most areas.
Also, representatives from The Samaritans visit organisations – including potential corporate sponsors – to seek continued or increased support for their work.
In 2020 much of this has been hampered by social distancing.
However, as you would expect from a modern awareness project, social media posts before, during and after the Talk to Us campaign will highlight the importance of having someone ready and willing to listen, 24/7.
Getting help when things are tough
Why should you support the work of the Samaritans, and what is the process of getting their help?
Across the UK, there are teams of volunteers who have been carefully trained to answers the telephone. When someone rings 116 123, they will be put through to one of these dedicated individuals whatever time of day or night it is.
It is important to keep in mind that this service is completely free of charge even when you call the number from a mobile phone. It is a vital source of one-to-one support, for any form of mental health problem or emotional trauma.
What is probably less known, is the fact that the Samaritans can also work with employers. They can be called in at times of change or crisis, to help support people’s mental health. Or, they can supply help to companies to protect the emotional health of employees.
Why their work is so vital
Samaritans answer a call from someone in distress every six seconds, around the clock. They also have online support and information to help people self-manage their distress.
Their aim is to help those in crisis, but also to listen to people who may be approaching a crisis of some sort. Ultimately, their goal is to reduce incidents of suicide in the UK, a horrific and abiding issue. More on that later.
Despite the fact that this charity relies on volunteer effort, it has around 20,000 people freely giving up their time to answer the phone, support their work or do outreach in prisons for example.
The annual awareness event in July and activities throughout the year, help to recruit more volunteers. However, everyone and anyone can help by organising or supporting fundraising initiatives to keep the Samaritans going.
Suicide in the UK
The statics on mental health in the UK provide sobering reading, but the really horrifying figures are those surrounding suicide. In 2018, 6,859 people ended their own lives in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. That was an increase of 10.8% on the previous year. For more information, click here.
The fact that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, is now widely discussed, but showing no signs of changing. The suicide rate among men aged 45-49 is particularly – and tragically – high.
It remains to be seen how recent global events impact on mental health in general and the incident of suicide. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic ripple effect will no doubt have taken its toll on British people and could well have tipped many more into crisis.
Also, the Samaritans point out that getting accurate figures on suicide is difficult. Not all such deaths are reported and recorded using that word.
Attempted suicide and other self-harming behaviours are even harder to uncover.
Which all means that the work of the Samaritans is more vital than ever before, and the Talk to Us campaign in July deserves as much support as possible.