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Thursday 24 July 2014

Fears that economy damaging our health as Samaritans say calls becoming ‘more intense’

Sarah Stack and Lyndsey Telford

Published 19/12/2012|12:34

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ONE in six calls to the Samaritans is related to the economic crisis.

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The charity helpline has had its busiest year with 412,167 calls, up 3pc on 2011.

Samaritans workers also recorded a 17pc increase in the level of face-to-face contact at its branches around the country.

Suzanne Costello, executive director of Samaritans Ireland, said calls are lasting longer and are more intense in nature than before, reflecting the complexity of many people's lives.

"Although the increase in the duration of calls reflects a level of stress and anxiety, it also reflects a willingness amongst people to talk about their problems," she said.

Its 2012 impact report reveals that one in six calls are related to the recession.

National chairman Pio Fenton said: "Money is an issue that seems to be causing more and more difficulty, and the nature of calls we receive reflects that. This year we have seen the strongest evidence yet that the recession is affecting the emotional-health landscape of the country."

Last year, one in 10 calls was linked to financial issues. The charity said there has been a hardening of despair, with more people struggling to cope with personal debt and job worries.

Other calls for help involved family and relationship problems, depression, stress, loneliness, abuse and other mental health issues.

On average, calls made this year lasted 6pc longer than those last year.

Volunteers experienced the highest volume of calls between 6pm and midnight, with 35pc of all contact made during that time.

Kathleen Lynch, minister of state with responsibility for disability, older people, equality and mental health, said the Samaritans gets so many calls because it offers people a safe space.

She praised the charity and its 24-hour service, saying the volume and intensity of its calls reflect the importance of the support it gives.

"As we approach the Christmas holidays, I know Samaritans volunteers are scheduling round-the-clock shifts to ensure they are available to those who need emotional support," Ms Lynch said.

"That hundreds of people throughout the country give so freely of their time to such an important cause is truly admirable."

The Samaritans helpline number is 1850 60 90 90. Information about its work is available at samaritans.ie.

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