At Samaritans, our vision is that fewer people die by suicide.
With more than 20,000 volunteers across 201 branches, we offer a unique 24-hour listening service for anyone who’s struggling to cope. We answer a call for help every six seconds.
Beyond our branches, we offer listening and support to communities in times of need. In prisons, schools, hospitals and on the rail network, we work with people who are going through a difficult time and train others to do the same. We help people find ways to cope and develop the skills to be there for others.
We believe suicide is preventable and that by working together we can give people the support they need. That’s why Samaritans continues to develop new partnerships and push for changes in government policy that can save lives.
How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?
We provide a 24-hour listening service
We provide a unique 24-hour listening service across the UK and Ireland. Every year, we answer more than 5 million calls for help by phone, email, SMS, letter, face to face or through our Welsh language service.
We work in local communities
Samaritans volunteers may also work alongside local services or support people at events and festivals. Some of our branches have partnerships with A&E departments, mental health teams or GP surgeries so they can support patients and their families. We also work to improve support for people bereaved by suicide. And if a tragedy or natural disaster affects a community, we may go out to offer support to local people, or work alongside police or emergency services.
We support people in prison
We run peer support in prisons called the Listener scheme, which exists in nearly every prison across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. Listeners are selected, trained and supported by volunteers from a nearby Samaritans branch, so that they can provide support for their peers in prison.
We work with the education sector
We give talks, run workshops and provide materials for schools to help children and young people understand and cope with their own feelings and respect other people’s feelings. We also offer support for schools if there’s been a suicide in the school community.
We work in partnership with others to reduce suicide
We work in partnership with Network Rail and the wider rail industry to reduce suicide on the railways. We train railway staff to help people who appear to beat risk at a station. We might be asked to visit a station to support rail staff and the travelling public following an incident. We are developing partnerships with other sectors and industries where there is a high risk of suicide.
We help improve wellbeing in the workplace
We develop learning tools to help people in the workplace support colleagues who might be going through a tough time and also look after their own wellbeing. We also provide training in workplaces, sharing our skills and experience in talking about difficult issues and helping people cope with their feelings. We are developing a programme of support for military personnel, reservists, veterans and their families.
We enable people to help themselves and others
We are developing new self-help and peer support resources that will enable people to help themselves and each other at an early stage before they reach crisis point. This includes tips and advice for people who support others, so that they can identify when someone is in distress, feel confident communicating about difficult issues, and able to signpost to Samaritans or other support where that’s needed.
We influence decision-makers and the media
Our influencing work is about engaging with the Government and others in positions of power to make sure that they are doing everything possible to prevent suicide. We do this by working with Parliamentarians and other influential contacts to improve policy and the law, as well as working with journalists to promote responsible reporting of suicide. We undertake research ourselves and use the best available evidence from others to inform all our work across services and influencing.
What are your current priorities?
To increase the number of people contacting us and our ability to answer those contacts by making sure that:
• A high quality emotional support service is available through phone, text, email, letter and in person.
• Our new telephony system-Connect is implemented and we continue to work to reduce our engaged rate to ensure people are able to access our service when they need to.
We explore new channels for service delivery including the potential to introduce Instant Messaging as a way for callers to talk directly to Samaritans volunteers. We can make our service free to callers.
To continue to reach out to high risk groups and communities to reduce the risk of suicide and develop partnerships at a local and national level by ensuring that:
• We continue the work of our Network Rail Partnership increasing our knowledge through research and evaluation.
• We progress our existing evaluation work on the Samaritans Prison Listener Scheme.
• We develop partnerships and run workshops with Social media organisations, other charities and service users to explore suicide and the online environment.
• We continue our Step by Step programme in schools, providing postvention support.
Improve the quality and consistency of our services by making sure that:
• We ensure all Samaritans users experience a service which is responsive to their needs.
• We ensure quality assurance processes are consistently implemented across all our services and projects.
Influence public policy and raising awareness of the challenges of reducing suicide by making sure that:
• We maintain strong effective relationships locally and nationally in order to influence the content of local and national suicide prevention policies and plans.
• We understand the interests of our callers and use this knowledge to encourage people to seek help and influence public policy and practice.
• We work with media organisations to promote a responsible attitude to the reporting of suicide both in print and online.
• We develop strong referral relationships with partner agencies working with high risk groups.
Ensure we are a knowledgeable organisation that delivers accessible, relevant, high quality services that can respond effectively to change by:
• Being better able to demonstrate our approach to supporting people, the benefits this offers and its contribution to reducing suicide.
• Understanding the needs and profile of the different groups of people who use our services and what they get out of those services.
• Applying existing evidence around ‘what works’ to improve and develop our support services.
• Increasing our involvement of Samaritans users across all aspects of our work.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Inequality and the economy
The UK and Ireland are experiencing economic uncertainty, along with cuts to public spending and social welfare systems. There has been a decrease in people’s material, social and psychological wellbeing, with fewer resources available to provide help.
Lack of understanding of suicidal behaviour and how it can be reduced
Suicide reduction requires multiple organisations across sectors working together. This is hindered by lack of understanding of suicidal behaviour and the perception that responsibility for its reduction rests exclusively with mental health services.
Disjointed and insufficient services
There are gaps in the provision of mental health services for those who are suicidal. Mental health problems play a very important role in suicide, but the wider causes and context of suicidal feelings and behaviour need to be understood and addressed in their own right. There is a lack of 24 hour crisis care and people fall into gaps between primary and secondary care and the emergency services.
The opportunities and challenges posed by our ‘digital’ society
Online and digital forms of communication and interaction have become an integral part of people’s lives, yet whilst the online environment can be supportive, safe and informative for vulnerable people; it can also harbour harmful and dangerous places.
The need for evidence to inform action
There is a large body of research about suicidal behaviour, but only limited evidence about what works best to prevent or reduce suicide, for different groups.