Almost 8,000 called local Samaritans in a year

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The statistics are frightening. Coleraine Samaritans took 35 calls from people who were actually in the process of committing suicide from summer 2013 to summer 2014.

The bigger picture is even more disturbing. Volunteers in the local branch received a massive 7,980 calls for help over that same period with 1,366 of that number expressing suicidal feelings.

A further 383 callers told Samaritans of their plans to take their own lives.

Kate Miller, Director of Coleraine Samaritans, revealed these shocking figures as Samaritans launched its Strategic Action Plan at Parliament Buildings in Stormont for the next three years.

As well as being available round the clock to provide emotional support, the plan highlights the continuing need to reach out to high risk groups in the community, including young people, prisoners and young offenders and other vulnerable individuals.

The Samaritans Festival team also attends events such as Belfast Pride, NW 200, Oxygen and a number of community based gatherings to reach out and be available to provide emotional support to anyone attending.

Samaritans works in partnership with organisations to promote positive mental health and wellbeing messages – an important role in improving emotional resilience among not only the most vulnerable groups but those at risk of becoming vulnerable.

Catherine Brogan, Samaritans Executive Director for Ireland, said: “There is no one reason why someone contacts Samaritans. Reasons can include depression, relationship concerns, alcohol and drug problems, self-harm, debt, exam pressures as well as suicidal thoughts and feelings. The service provided by Samaritans is much needed and much valued.

“Our Strategic Action Plan will help to ensure that we continue to work to meet the local and national challenges at the forefront of emotional support and suicide reduction response.

“Samaritans is acutely aware of the changing environment in which we operate. There is an increased intensity of strain in many peoples’ lives. Our mission is to alleviate emotional distress and reduce the incidence of suicidal-feelings and behaviour. We have a clear vision, embodied within our Strategic Action Plan that fewer people die by suicide”.

Kate Miller, Director of the Coleraine Branch, told the Times: “The event was very good and managed to raise the profile of the work Samaritans does in the local communities around the province.

“I, as Coleraine Director was honoured to be asked to speak on the Outreach work of Samaritans, on behalf of our branch in the local area and from other branches around NI.

“I spoke of the growing partnerships with other charities, businesses and statuary bodies. Coleraine and District branch has been one of the most proactive in the region by setting up partnerships with others to raise our profile and to ‘reach out’ to those in our community affected by depression and suicide.

“Also speaking on a local level on the day was Alanna Jackson, Ballymena Branch who spoke of the work of Samaritans festival branch who go around the region to major festivals and events such as NW200 offering face to face emotional support.”

The event was attended by the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

Mr Robinson said: “Samaritans have been to the fore in providing emotional support for people in crisis since they opened their first branch in Northern Ireland in 1961 and the service provided by Samaritans is much needed and highly valued. “