independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Midnight is Samaritans' busy time

The number of people calling Samaritans has fallen slightly since the height of the financial collapse (Samaritans)

More than a third of people feeling depressed or suicidal look for help in the middle of the night, the Samaritans have revealed.

Midnight to 1am on Friday and Saturday nights were the busiest times of the week for the charity's helplines while 37% of all calls in the past year were made from midnight to 6am.

But the organisation said the number of people looking for help is climbing down from an all-time-high of just over 400,000 when the country's economic collapse was at its worst in 2010/11.

The review of services from November last year to the end of October this year showed 381,128 calls to the Samaritans along with 13,081 emails, 9,853 text messages and 7,911 face-to-face contacts.

Average call time is 14 minutes.

Catherine Brogan, executive director of Samaritans Ireland, said there may be a feeling in some sections of the community that prospects are improving.

"Some of the decrease in calls could be down to the fact that some people are feeling more hopeful about the future," she said.

Samaritans Ireland impact report revealed that out of hours calls to its helplines were up by 9% on last year and accounted for 68% of all calls to the service.

Almost 10,000 people had face to face contact with the organisation's staff, a 14% increase on last year, and while it said the number of calls it took fell by 7% on last year, the number of contacts through other mediums increased by 18%.

Ms Brogan said: "A number of dynamics have resulted in changes to the type and timing of contacts to Samaritans in 2013. For starters, we are noticing that night-time periods are increasingly busy with more calls coming through, and these calls are lasting longer.

"This - in our experience - is down to the fact that there are now more day-time services and helplines available and as part of our partnership work, many of these divert into Samaritans' service after hours.

"It highlights the vital need to have a resilient, reliable and available support service round the clock, particularly when other front line services are closed. It's clear that increasingly, Samaritans is acting as a safety net for all of Ireland's emotional support services."

Samaritans said it has noticed a change in how people contact its service as a whole generation prefers to use email or text to communicate while a new free phone number is being launched to stop people running up huge costs on mobiles.

Samaritans said the issues of most concern to callers this year related to family and relationship problems; depression and mental health issues; loneliness and stress or anxiety - similar problems to last year.

"With many of these issues, having the opportunity to talk them through with a trained listener offers huge relief. Where Samaritans feels a person could benefit from a greater intervention, we sign-post them to alternative services so that they can access the support they need," Ms Brogan said.

Press Association

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