Samaritans volunteers in Ireland answered a call for help every 56 seconds throughout 2020, new figures show.
The charity - which provides emotional support to anyone in distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide - has launched its Impact Report for 2020 ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day this Friday.
More than half a million calls and emails were answered by Samaritans Ireland’s 2,300 volunteers last year, who also listened to those who reached out for over 100,000 hours.
Coronavirus has undoubtedly been the most serious challenge Samaritans has faced in our 60 years in Ireland
Niall Mulligan, Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland, said the pandemic had a major impact.
“Coronavirus has undoubtedly been the most serious challenge Samaritans has faced in our 60 years in Ireland, but we know we are needed now more than ever,” Mr Mulligan said.
“Not only was it very difficult for our callers, but also for our volunteers, and it was their resilience and spirit [that ensured] we were there when needed most.
“While loneliness and isolation remained along the top reasons why people called, we also supported those with a mental health crisis, with family or relationship issues, job or financial insecurity, bereavement and anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic.”
Samaritans Ireland remained open 24/7 last year, despite 40 per cent of its volunteers cocooning at one stage, according to its annual impact report.
The charity also extended its helpline to the Irish diaspora living in Australia and Canada last year, and celebrated 50 years of service in Dublin.
“Every single Samaritan volunteer, staff member, fundraiser, partner and supporter in Ireland played a role in keeping our services running and allowed us to continue working towards our vision that fewer people die by suicide,” Mr Mulligan said.
“Each of them should be proud of what they personally contributed when most needed.”
World Suicide Prevention Day
After what the charity said was a “hugely challenging” 18 months, it is now encouraging people to talk to each other and share the things in life that give them hope on World Suicide Prevention Day.
The charity’s theme for this year is Creating Hope Through Action, and it hopes sharing ways of remaining hopeful could support anyone struggling to cope and serve as a reminder that suicidal thoughts are not permanent.
Rory Fitzgerald, Regional Director for Samaritans, said: “The pandemic’s challenges are continuing and won’t immediately ease off with restrictions lifting. Therefore, it’s vitally important we do everything we can to help anyone who needs support.
“Taking the time to enjoy your favourite activities, whatever they are – something easy and every day, or something more strenuous or creative – can be great ways to spread hope and look after your mental wellbeing.
“You don’t have to be an expert to make a difference, and potentially save someone’s life.”
If you or anyone you know needs emotional support, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 116 123, emailing email@example.com or visiting www.samaritans.ie.
Anyone can contact Samaritans for free from any phone, even a mobile without credit. The 116 123 number will not show up on your phone bill.