Samaritans celebrate 60 years

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Samaritans are enormously proud to be celebrating their 60th birthday in November.

Since 1953, the charity have been helping anyone with nowhere else to turn.

Samaritans founder Chad Varah vowed to stop the isolation and ignorance that would lead people to suicide.

Throughout his career as a vicar, Chad had offered counseling to his parishioners, and wanted to do something more specific to help people struggling to cope and possibly contemplating suicide.

The initial idea for Samaritans came from the first funeral Chad conducted early on in his career: a girl aged 14 had started her periods, but having no one to talk to believed that she had a sexually transmitted disease and took her own life.

Chad was immensely moved by this senseless loss of life, “I might have dedicated myself to suicide prevention then and there, providing a network of people you could ‘ask’ about anything, however embarrassing, but I didn’t come to that until later”.

When Chad was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen in the summer of 1953 he knew that the time was right for him to launch what he called a “999 for the suicidal”.

He was, in his own words, “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone”.

The first call to the new service was made on 2nd November 1953 and this date is recognised as Samaritans’ official birthday.

In February 1954, Chad officially handed over the task of supporting the callers to the volunteers, and Samaritans as we know it today was born. Samaritans service today still operates on Chad’s guiding principles of confidential, non-judgmental support.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Patron of Samaritans helped to officially launch the 60 year celebrations, he said: “I must say I’m deeply appreciative and full of admiration for everything, all these remarkable volunteers do.

“The fact that you give up so much of your time, and provide your love and compassion for other people in this way; it is a wonderful thing that you’re doing and the fact that there are still so many people wanting to volunteer for this, is a great sign.

I’m sure you’ll go on to grow in strength and effectiveness.”