As Samaritans celebrates 70 years of listening to this year, the service has come a long way from just being a phone line. My Mind News investigates further.
Samaritans in the digital age
Latest figures show over 185,000 people have been helped thanks to Samaritans (the suicide prevention charity) and its new digital services.
Since the soft launch of the charity’s digital service in 2020, more than 80,000 people have turned to the Samaritans for emotional support via its online chat pilot. This has proven to be a vital new way to seek help from Samaritans. 60% of users have never contacted Samaritans before, and 40% say they would not reach out in any other way.
In 2020, Samaritans also launched a free self-help web app to help people look after their emotional wellbeing. To date, over 105,000 people have created Samaritans Self-Help accounts.
Nominet, the profit with a purpose company, has provided funding of almost £1 million (US$1.2 million) towards Samaritans’ digital transformation project, so the charity can expand its online support offering to reach people struggling to cope in a way that works best for them.
Thanks to this funding, Samaritans has also improved its internal systems and developed more understanding and guidance on online harm.
The video below, produced by Samaritans, tells the whole story of the organization’s digital transformation.
Speaking about the organization’s move into providing digital support platforms, Julie Bentley, CEO at Samaritans, said
“Samaritans began 70 years ago with a single telephone but now, thanks to the support of companies like Nominet, we are able to help people in a variety of ways that would have been unimaginable to our early volunteers. The digital environment is always evolving and it’s vital that Samaritans can match this pace of change, so anyone struggling to cope can reach us in a way that is most suitable for them. As we continue on our digital journey, now more than ever, funders can play a crucial role in ensuring that we will be here for people, both today and in the future.”
In response, Chris Ashworth, Head of Social Impact at Nominet, said,
“Samaritans is the only charity that is there day or night at this scale, and it’s vital that they are supported to continue to provide their life-saving service. We are so proud to have funded Samaritans’ digital transformation journey so far, which includes vital programmes of work such as the development of Samaritans Self-Help app and trialling the online chat pilot.”
What does this mean for Samaritans?
Samaritans volunteers respond to around 10,000 calls for help daily via phone, email, letter, and the online chat pilot. The charity has 22,000 volunteers across over 200 branches throughout the UK and Ireland and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for anyone who needs emotional support.
With the availability of the new Self-Help app, the online chat function, and other projects in the pipeline, Samaritans looks well-equipped for the future as our lives become ever more digitally based.
Although Samaritans began 70 years ago with a single telephone, now, thanks to the support of companies like Nominet, the charity can help people in various ways that would have been unimaginable to its early volunteers.
As the digital environment is constantly evolving, Samaritans recognize that it’s vital that their service provision matches this pace of change. Its aim is that anyone struggling to cope can reach the volunteers in a way that is most suitable for them.
As Samaritans continues on its digital journey, now more than ever, funders can play a crucial role in ensuring that it will be here for people, both today and in the future. The new digital services are a fine example of this.
If you need further support, you can get in contact with Samaritans online or by telephone in the UK at 116 123