Samaritans Celebrate Their 60th Birthday

The first phone call to the Samaritans was taken on November 2nd, 1953. Now, 60 years later, they still listen to people who need to talk about their problems.

Whilst celebrating their birthday by handing out cakes to passers-by in Eden Street, Barry Fisher, 42, director of Kingston’s Samaritans branch, explained that people can contact the Samaritans about anything that is troubling them, from anxiety to suicidal thoughts.

Joe Bailey, 67, has been a volunteer with the Kingston Samaritans since June this year. He joined for two reasons: to do something back for society, in the form of volunteering, and because people sometimes just need to talk. He said: “Talking is basic.”

Samaritan phone box on Eden Street

The Samaritans in Kingston have around 170 volunteers. They were contacted approximately 43,000 times last year, via telephone, email, text and face to face.  

David, 59, who preferred not to give his last name, became a Kingston Samaritan 30 years ago. He explained that volunteers do not give advice or be judgemental. They are listening to people, supporting them and “helping them to express their feeling”.

David said that there have been changes over the years with regard to the people contacting them, amongst others due to the appearance of other lines of communication and new help organisations. For example, the Samaritans receive fewer calls from gay men than before, because they now can get help elsewhere as well.

As well as waiting to be contacted, Samaritans also go to places where people are likely to need a listener. Mr Fisher said that they go to prisons, hospitals and schools. They also work together with other charities.

Being a listener to someone else’s troubles can be tough. Fran Martin, 82, who has been a Kingston Samaritan since 1992, explained that every once in a while, Samaritans have a debriefing call to another Samaritan, because listening to upsetting problems can become upsetting for the listener too.

The Samaritans is a charity that runs on donations. Nationally, the Samaritans have around 20,000 volunteers in 201 branches across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. On average, the Samaritans are contacted every six seconds. Every 52 seconds, they are contacted by someone with suicidal thoughts.

On the Samaritans’ website stories can be found of people who contacted them. Des said about his call: “There was someone there who didn’t know who I was, wouldn’t judge me and I knew I could talk in confidence.” Dawn said: “I honestly think without Samaritans I would not be here today.”

Jane Horrocks, known for her role as Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous, helped the Kingston branch celebrate the birthday. When asked why she supports the Samaritans, she jokes how dreadful the organisation is. She then said: “It is a great cause.” She added: “Often it is just an ear, isn’t it?”

The Kingston Samaritans can be contacted on 020 8399 6676 (phone), 07725 909090 (text) or via every moment of every day. They can be visited at 12 St. Andrew’s Road, Surbiton, between 7:30 am and 9:00 pm.

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