Samaritans Scotland marks 60 years of providing a listening ear

The Samaritans launched in Edinburgh 60 years ago.
The Samaritans launched in Edinburgh 60 years ago.
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It was founded 60 years ago, when a volunteer in Edinburgh became the first Samaritan to pick up the phone to a caller outside of London.

Now, charity the Samaritans has revealed it was contacted 249,000 times last year - once every two minutes - by people in need of support. Between them, volunteers in Scotland provided more than 60,000 hours of emotional support in 2018 alone – equivalent to 2,500 days of listening.

However, it warned that it needs to recruit 60 new volunteers over the coming year in the Edinburgh branch alone to keep up with demand for

its services. There are now a total of 19 branches in Scotland stretching from Selkirk to the Shetland Islands.

The charity says people contact the Samaritans for a wide range of reasons - from loneliness to social isolation, as well as worries about family and relationship breakdown and problems with physical and mental health.

The first Samaritans call in Scotland came on 1 June, 1959, with the charity receiving 550 calls over the coming 12 months.

James Jopling, executive director of Samaritans Scotland, said: “It’s remarkable to think that since that first call on June 1 1959, every single call, email, text or face to face visit to Samaritans Scotland, has been answered by a volunteer. We’ve supported countless people through times of crisis and distress through our anonymous, confidential and non-judgemental service.

“It’s clear there is just as much a need for this service now as when we started 60 years ago. And we’re committed to being there for anyone who needs us today and in the decades to come. But to make that happen we need more volunteers to support our life-saving work.”

Keith Walker, a volunteer with the Inverness branch, has also been working to reduce the social isolation and loneliness in the Highlands.

He said: “Samaritans Scotland has provided a listening ear to people when they needed it most for six decades and I feel very proud to have played a part in that."

He added: "My years as a volunteer have shown me just how powerful the act of listening can be - by taking the time to listen you can help someone who may otherwise feel completely alone, to find their own way through whatever it is they are struggling with and find a sense of happiness and peace.

"When someone finishes a call with ‘thanks for listening’ you know you’ve made a difference.”