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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Free number prompts flood of calls to Samaritans

Danielle Stephens

Published 09/08/2014 | 02:30

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Samaritans have seen their calls increase
Samaritans have seen their calls increase

The number of people calling the Samaritans helpline has "increased significantly" this year, since the introduction of a new free phone number.

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Figures released to the Irish Independent show that 194,828 phonecalls were recorded from the beginning of January to the end of May 2014, an increase of 18pc from the same time last year.

In May alone, there was a 6.7pc increase in the number of contacts made over the phone compared to April.

The large hike in numbers is being attributed to the new free phone 116 123 number, which was officially launched in March of this year.

In January, only 11pc of people phoned this number, in comparison to 87pc who rang the Lo-call 1850 number.

Yet in the three months following its official introduction, this figure has jumped to 40pc.

Subsequently, the amount of people choosing to phone the 1850 number dropped from 28,700 in January to 22,153 in May (23pc).

For the past two years, the 12 branches in the Republic of Ireland had seen a decline in the number of people phoning the charity organisation for help.

However, new initiatives taken by the Samaritans, such as setting up an Irish Festival Branch and starting a social media campaign, have helped promote the service throughout the country.

Volunteers have seen a large discrepancy between the demograph of people, who choose to talk to them at a festival.

Gillian Leo of the Kilkenny branch explained that "normally there is a problem with getting men to open up about things that are bothering them.

"But at festivals men are three times more likely to talk to us than women," she said.

In 2013 alone, 377,400 people contacted Samaritans Ireland, with only 1 pc of these being face-to-face from someone walking into one of the branches.

According to 2013 figures, 22pc of callers that contacted Samaritans Ireland were considered to have "suicidal feelings".

Irish Independent

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