At the MHW Show, our main goal is connect people together to discuss improving mental health, and also to signpost individuals and organisations to the correct support and services for them.
In our events and blogs, we like to shed light on as many fantastic organisations as we possibly can, as well as letting people know how these organisations can support them.
This month is Samaritans Awareness Month, so we’re dedicating a blog to this fantastic service which has saved the lives of so so many people.
Samaritans are challenging the UK to become better listeners by sharing expert tips on how to be a better listener. Throughout July, Samaritans branches are also holding events throughout the UK and Ireland to raise awareness of the services they offer in their local communities.
Visit your local branch website to see what they’re doing during Talk To Us.
24th July is 24/7 Samaritans Awareness Day, so get involved in the worthwhile cause of raising awareness for the important work that The Samaritans carry out.
Find out what your local branch is doing during Talk To Us.
You can also get involved in Samaritans Awareness Day on Twitter using the hashtag #SamaritansAwarenessDay
Over 65 years of being there for anyone who needs someone.
Although not a religious organisation, Samaritans was founded by a vicar called Chad Varah, in 1953 in London. Throughout his career Chad had offered counselling to his parishioners, and wanted to do something more specific to help people contemplating suicide.
On 2nd November 1953, Chad Varah, a vicar and writer-cartoonist, answered the first ever call to a brand new helpline for people contemplating suicide.
But back then, Samaritans was a far cry from the organisation of 20,000 volunteers it is now.
In Chad’s own words, the service was just ‘a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone’.
Opening the Samaritans helpline
For many years, Chad would work all day and stay up until 2am or 3am writing scripts and cartoons to make ends meet. In his own words, his church stipend was only enough to pay Vivan Prosser, his secretary .
But, in the summer of 1953, Chad was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen in the City of London, a post which gave him the time he needed to launch what he called a ‘999 for the suicidal’.
On 2nd November 1953, with Vivan’s help, Chad started taking calls. This date is recognised as Samaritans’ official birthday.
Coining the name
Chad knew the service would only work if people knew about it. Luckily, his work writing and illustrating articles for children’s comics meant he had contacts at many national newspapers.
In December 1953, just a month after launching, the Daily Mirror coined the phrase, ‘Telephone Good Samaritan’. Although Samaritans is not a religious organisation, the name stuck and word spread far and wide.
Chad and Vivan received calls from people who needed support on the phone and face to face, and from many, many people who wanted to volunteer.
From one to 200 branches
When Samaritans first launched it was a London-based service. But the publicity created a lot of interest elsewhere in the UK.
Several more Samaritans centres were set up in the following years – the second being Samaritans in Edinburgh, which took its first call on 1st June 1959.
Today, we have over 20,000 volunteers and 201 branches across the UK and Republic of Ireland. And every six seconds, a Samaritan responds to a call for help. Our 24-hour listening service has come to be what Chad first envisioned – and more.
In 2017, we reached more than half a million people through our work in local communities. And we’re working in schools, prisons, hospitals and communities, and have a long-running partnership with Network Rail to reduce suicides on the railways.
The Future – an online world
As the world changes, we’re investing in new technologies to make sure we can reach the people who need us.
For example, we’re developing an Instant Messaging service, for callers who prefer to contact us in that way, and have established groundbreaking partnerships with Google and Facebook.