Samaritans Ireland had its busiest ever year in 2012, with a total of 412,167 calls to the organisation’s helpline, an increase of three per cent on last year. That’s according to Samaritans’ 2012 Impact Report, which was launched in Dublin. The report highlighted the work of Samaritans’ 13 branches in the Republic of Ireland, including the Limerick and Tipperary Branch.
Following the launch of the report, Samaritans volunteers met with members of the Oireachtas to brief them about their work including political representatives from Limerick and Tipperary: Limerick TD Patrick O’Donovan, Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath and Tipperary North TD Noel Coonan.
According to the report, calls to Samaritans’ helpline this year were longer in duration and focused on more complicated and interlinked problems than ever before. In addition to calls to its helpline, over the past year, Samaritans also recorded a 17 per cent increase in the level of face-to-face contact at its branches around the country.
Commenting at the launch, Suzanne Costello, Executive Director of Samaritans Ireland, said: “Calls to our service are lasting longer and are more intense in nature, reflecting the complexity of many people’s lives. On average, calls during 2012 lasted six per cent longer than they did last year. “It is important to note however that, although the increase in the duration of calls reflects a level of stress and anxiety, it also reflects a willingness amongst people to talk about their problems. There is also a notable improvement in the ease of engagement with our face-to-face outreach services. This may be linked to ongoing work to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and the proactive work of Samaritans’ branches within their local communities.”
Key findings from Samaritans’ 2012 impact report include the following:
· 412,167 calls were received by Samaritans Ireland over the past 12 months, an increase of three per cent on the same period last year.
· Excluding calls that lasted less than 10 seconds, the number of contacts between callers and Samaritans’ volunteers was 258,245.
· Callers supported by Samaritans’ helpline benefited from 57,410 hours of listening time by the service’s volunteers.
· Samaritans received the highest number of calls on Thursday, 15th March 2012, when 930 calls were answered. A high number of calls were also answered on Saturday, 7th January (924) and Sunday, 8th April (898).
· The hours of 6pm to midnight were the busiest for Samaritans’ helpline, with 35 per cent of all calls received during those times. The quietest time for the helpline was 6am to noon, when 17 per cent of calls were received.
· 6,912 people received face-to-face support from Samaritans over the past year, representing an increase of 17 per cent on the previous 12 months.
· The Listener Scheme run by Samaritans in a number of State prisons – whereby the organisation trains inmates to provide emotional support to their peers – experienced a significant rise in calls: Listeners in prisons had approximately 1,100 calls from their fellow inmates over the past 12 months, an increase of 83 per cent on last year. Samaritans attributes this rise to the extension of the Listener Scheme service to the Dóchas Centre and also an increase in the number of new Listeners in the prisons in which the service operates.
According to Suzanne Costello: “Though we answered more calls this year than ever before, we have noted a slight decrease in the number of calls lasting 10 seconds or longer. However, the amount of ‘listening’ time on phones by our volunteers has increased. We have also seen increased demand for the services we offer alongside our helpline, in particular increased interactions with our outreach volunteers at festivals and other large events.”
One in Six Calls Recession-Related
Speaking at the launch, Samaritans’ National Chair, Pio Fenton said there had been a marked increase in calls related to the ongoing economic recession this year.
“Money is an issue that seems to be causing more and more difficulty, and the nature of calls we receive reflects that,” he said. “This year we have seen the strongest evidence yet that the recession is affecting the emotional health landscape of the country. Approximately one in six calls we received in 2012 was recession-related. This is a dramatic increase on 2011, when only one in 10 calls was linked to the recession. There has been a real hardening of despair amongst many of those who contact us; people are struggling to cope in the face of uncertainty around employment, personal debt and other financial concerns.
“Other common issues that arose this year were family and relationship problems; depression and mental health issues; loneliness; stress and anxiety; and abuse.”
Samaritans’ services – in the Limerick, Tipperary and throughout the country – are delivered by trained volunteers: over 1,400 people volunteer with the organisation in Ireland.
Paying tribute to Samaritans’ volunteers, Pio Fenton said, “Volunteers are the beating heart of the Samaritans organisation, delivering the core support service, running all branches, raising vital funds, and raising awareness of the work we do,” he said. “Each volunteer commits 15 hours on average each month and undergoes a rigorous programme of initial and ongoing training. The growing demand on volunteer time is considerable and we will be looking to expand our volunteer base over the coming year and beyond to meet the challenges that we now face as a society.”
The impact report launched by Samaritans covers the period from the beginning of November 2011 to the end of October 2012.
Samaritans’ helpline number is 1850 60 90 90. Further information about the organisation’s work is available at www.samaritans.ie.