Bringing hope to life by Lynn Smith
For fifty years Worthing Samaritans has been offering people a safe place to talk, at any time, in their own way and about whatever is bothering them. From its current location in Lennox Road the Worthing branch is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – providing emotional support to anyone who needs to talk to someone anonymously, regardless of age.
Set up nationally in 1953, the Samaritans began opening branches throughout the United Kingdom and in 1969 Worthing and District Samaritans opened in rooms in Rivoli Buildings, Chapel Road. The President was Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk and in that first year 175 people called the branch. The Lennox Road centre opened in 1976 and demand for services has grown year on year. In 1982, calls to the branch topped 10,000 for the first time, the increase in demand being attributed, at least in part, to recession and high unemployment. The Worthing Samaritans branch celebrated its silver anniversary in 1994 and the following year it received over 14,000 calls and was recognised by the Mayor in Worthing’s New Year’s Honours. In 2008 the branch began supporting the Samaritans Prison Listening Scheme in HMP Ford. In the branch’s fortieth year it began supporting callers via text messaging.
In 2010 a new sort of Outreach began, when the branch began working with staff at a local school, delivering Emotional Awareness sessions to around 350 senior pupils, and the following year it began working more closely with GP surgeries, to encourage GP referrals to Samaritans. Free calls were launched in 2015, also the year the branch joined Twitter. Significantly 2015 was the year that the Worthing branch became an affiliated branch to the Samaritans, a charity in its own right, rather than operating entirely under the central office umbrella.
Last year saw the branch celebrating its 50th anniversary with a number of events being held throughout the year, including a visit from HRH Duchess of Kent who unveiled a commemorative plaque and met volunteers. Director Liz Riach tells me that during the month of February last year, Worthing Samaritans answered 1,703 calls, spending 347 hours on these calls, compared to the 175 calls taken in the very first year.
There have been tremendous changes to the way we live our lives over the last fifty years, particularly so in the area of technological changes and with the birth of social media. This made me wonder whether there have been significant changes in the types of issues people are presenting, compared to those issues seen in the early days. Liz Riach tells me that, “The need for emotional support for our callers is no different now than it was fifty years ago but day to day life has changed, especially with developments in technology. Worthing Samaritans continue to support our callers as we did in 1969 offering a non-judgmental, confidential service.”
But Liz also says that, the “Samaritans Central Office are currently developing new methods for callers to contact us, such as Instant Messaging and the use of a “Listening App.”
Keeping the Helpline open
Worthing Samaritans is funded purely by donations. Donating even a small amount every month can have an impact on the charity’s ability to answer more lifesaving calls – for instance, £5 per month could cover the cost of one call for help every month. For every £1 donated, 85p goes on services and 15p is invested in raising the next £1.
Additionally, Liz tells me, Worthing Samaritans is very fortunate to have a Charity Shop in Strand Parade, Durrington. “The income from the shop, raised by the tireless efforts of the Shop staff and volunteers, funds the costs of the Lennox Road building allowing us to continue to offer our service to the Community.” The branch also receives donations from various Outreach events. Liz Riach also says the charity receives a great deal of support from local people. “We promote awareness of Samaritans locally by giving talks at businesses, schools and other organisations. The support we have was really apparent at the Worthing Pride Parade last year, which was a fantastic event.”
Providing a lifeline
Statistics on the charity’s website reveal that every six seconds someone contacts the Samaritans, and that answering a single call costs £5. A team of trained volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland, tragically every single day around sixteen people decide to end their own life across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In the UK, men are three time more likely to take their own lives than women. Liz Riach says that there is, “A continuing need to ensure we have enough volunteers to provide our service; also we ensure we are able to cover the costs of operating the service from Lennox Road.”
More than 5 million calls for help nationwide
Every six seconds Samaritans respond to a call for help. There is always a need for more volunteers and the Samaritans offer thorough and in-depth training, preparing volunteers for the different types of conversations they will have, providing them with new skills and the confidence to use them, including the ability to understand people and manage difficult conversations. There is no requirement for volunteers to be from a certain walk of life or to have been through a particular life experience; key attributes are to be over 18, to have a desire to help others and to be tolerant, non-judgmental and open-minded, and to be a good listener – to be able to listen without telling people what to do.
There are many ways to volunteer for the Samaritans, listening volunteers help answer calls and messages from people who need support, but other volunteers are also required to provide support with marketing, fundraising or by helping out in the shop. There are volunteer roles to suit a range of skills and available time. Anyone who has a few hours to spare a week may apply via the website or via the Recruitment line, details of which can be found on the website.
“The fact that somebody understood, did not criticise, did not palm me off, did not judge or advise… gave me back my confidence in me as a person.” Samaritans caller.
Anyone can call the Samaritans and talk about whatever it is that is getting to them – you don’t have to be suicidal to ask for their help. Only around one in five calls are from people who are feeling suicidal, people call with all kinds of problems – depression, loneliness, stressful home or work situations, financial worries or abuse. Samaritans allow people to talk about their issues and talk them through with a supportive, empathetic and respectful listener. The Samaritans is an entirely confidential service.
Contact: Samaritans Worthing,
2 Lennox Road, Worthing, BN11 1DA
Tel – 01903 205 555
Freephone – 116 123 Email: [email protected]