Belfast Telegraph

Samaritans answer 2.9m calls in five years of free helpline

Major reasons for contact included mental health problems or isolation and loneliness.

A woman showing signs of depression (Posed by model/Anna Gowthorpe/PA)
A woman showing signs of depression (Posed by model/Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Samaritans volunteers in Ireland have answered almost three million calls for help over the last five years, new figures show.

Major reasons for contact included mental health problems or isolation and loneliness.

A freephone helpline has operated for five years.

Samaritans Ireland regional director Cindy O’Shea said: “Samaritans has been supporting people in Ireland since 1961, but the introduction of freephone made a huge impact.

“It is amazing that in that time volunteers have answered almost three million telephone calls, as well as given support to thousands more by text, email and face to face in branches, in communities, at festivals and in prisons.”

Six major telecom providers – BT Ireland, eir, Sky Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone Ireland – have extended their partnership and agreed to support the helpline until 2024.

Ms O’Shea added: “We are thrilled that our largest telecommunications companies have shown their faith and confidence in us to continue delivering this service to their customers and others who need us in their darkest hours.”

Over the last five years 2.9 million calls were answered.

A total of 110,000 individual callers made contact.

The busiest time was generally 6pm to midnight.

More than 500,000 calls were answered by Samaritans volunteers last year, with almost 46,000 text replies and 5,300 emails sent.

Some 4,000 people were given emotional support in a branch or at a festival.

Communications, Climate Action and Environment Minister Richard Bruton said: “I am delighted that all major telecom providers have agreed to continue to support the Samaritans and the vital work that they do.

“This agreement will mean that there will be no cost barrier to anyone who may need to call the Samaritans.”

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