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Samaritans answered call every 56 seconds in 2020

Pandemic was the most serious challenge Samaritans faced in its 60 years


The Samaritans operate a 24-hour helpline

The Samaritans operate a 24-hour helpline

The Samaritans operate a 24-hour helpline

Michael Keelan said the “flick” that set him on the road to changing his life was calling the Samaritans, and just a couple of years after almost taking his own life he decided to become a volunteer with the suicide prevention helpline.

In 2020, Samaritans Ireland – which is a 24/7 helpline service – answered a call for help every 56 seconds, new figures show.

“Back in 2013 it was a really bad time in my life, I was recently separated and then subsequently divorced at the time, like a lot of people in life, I was not sure where to go or what to do,” Mr Keelan explained.

The Meath native said a friend taking him to Samaritans that night was the beginning of his life changing pace. “We went down to Samaritans in Drogheda. The door was actually closed but at least I got the phone number and so I started calling them.

“It was two or three times before I did but it was that feeling of knowing there’s somebody out there listening that was really the starting point, that was the flick that started to turn my life around” he said.

Mr Keelan finds working as a volunteer in the Drogheda branch extremely rewarding. Asked what his advice to those who are nervous to pick up the phone, he said: “From both sides, as a caller and volunteer, I would say keep calling, even though you may not have the courage now you will eventually get to talk.

“Sometimes we get silent calls, and we just keep reassuring them and we stay on the phone with them.”

In 2020, over 500,000 calls were answered by Samaritans Ireland, over 23,000 emails were sent and pre-lockdown, 468 face-to-face meetings were facilitated.

Mr Keelan said Covid-19 exacerbated loneliness in Ireland, as everyday social interactions like going to the post office or mass were decimated.

Executive director for Samaritans Ireland, Niall Mulligan, said the coronavirus pandemic has “undoubtedly been the most serious challenge” the charity has faced in its 60 years.

“Not only was it very difficult for our callers, but also for our volunteers, and it was their resilience and spirit to ensure we were there when needed most,” he added.

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“While loneliness and isolation remained the top reasons why people called, we also supported those with a mental health crisis, with family or relationship issues, job insecurity and anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic.”

If you or anyone you know needs emotional support, Samaritans can be contacted for free 24/7 on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie.

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