Samaritans began in 1953 in London, founded by a vicar called Chad Varah. Throughout his career Chad had offered counselling to his parishioners, and wanted to do something more specific to help people struggling to cope, and possibly contemplating suicide.
When Chad was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen in the summer of 1953, he knew that the time was right for him to launch what he called a '999 for the suicidal.' He was, in his own words, "a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone."
Chad knew he would need to get word out about the service. Luckily, he wrote and illustrated articles for children's comics, so he knew many of the journalists who worked on national newspapers. The service received lots of press coverage and on December 7th, 1953 the Daily Mirror coined the term 'Telephone Good Samaritans' and although Samaritans is not a religious organisation, the name has stuck and become synonymous with the idea of people being there for others struggling to cope.
The newspaper coverage worked and Chad received many calls and visits from people wanting support, as well as people wanting to help as volunteers. Initially, the volunteers’ duties were to sit with the callers whilst they waited for their appointment, offering them someone to chat to, but it soon became clear that their role was much more central to the service. The simple act of listening and offering non-judgemental support was enough for most callers, and Chad realised the power of the service was in providing a safe space so people could talk and be listened to, without judgement.
This is still the guiding principle behind Samaritans, which continues to help people in the UK and Ireland, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Its dedicated volunteers are always there to listen, without interruption, for as long as the caller wants, and as many times as they like.
The service is completely confidential, offering a safe place for people to turn without fear of
repurcussions, or the worry of burdening friends or family. This in itself can bring much-needed relief.
Samaritans also works in the local community, reaching as many as 228,370 people a year in schools,
hospitals, prisons and on the street, offering support and education on suicide prevention.
The foreword of our book, My Dog, my Friend, is written by Professor Stephen Platt, Samaritans Trustee, who is a firm believer that dogs can enrich our lives and benefit our mental health:
"We believe that My Dog, my Friend will increase awareness about the important role that animals – and dogs in particular – can play in helping people who are struggling to cope as well as symptoms of physical and mental ill-health. What is striking from the contributions in this book is the many different ways that dogs support us in our daily lives."
All author royalties from My Dog, my Friend are being donated to Samaritans. To find out how you can help support this fantastic cause, visit the website. Or, if there's something troubling you, then get in touch by calling 08457 90 90 90. For more ways to contact Samaritans, click here.