Samaritans helpline in Sunderland and South Tyneside takes 12,000 calls in past year

The Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of the Samaritans has seen an increase in calls to its helpline
The Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of the Samaritans has seen an increase in calls to its helpline

More than 12,000 calls were made to local Samaritans in the past year.

Last year, the charity’s branch covering Sunderland and South Tyneside dealt with 12,718 calls.

Sometimes being able to talk to a stranger who is willing to listen with an empathetic ear, and offer emotional support, can make all the difference.

Louise Tindill

Of those, 1,178 calls were from people experiencing emotional distress while 79 indicated suicidal plans were in place.

And with the start of a new year presenting its own problems for some, the charity is urging people in emotional distress or crisis not to suffer in silence, and to pick up the phone and call.

Louise Tindill, from the local branch said: “Our team of 40 volunteers work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to ensure there is a listening ear for everyone who calls.

“We know the festive period and the start of a new year can be daunting for some, and it can be that time when negative thoughts start creeping in and the past year is being reflected upon - but this is why we are here.

“We understand how difficult life can be for people and sometimes being able to talk to a stranger who is willing to listen with an empathetic ear, and offer emotional support through whatever way they have contacted us, can make all the difference. And it is always in the strictest of confidence.”

As well as the telephone helpline, the charity dealt with an additional 720 emails and text messages and 65 face-to-face contacts.

Louise added: “Throughout 2016, the branch saw a significant increase in calls for help with the new free to call number.

“But while this shows more people are needing emotional support, it also shows more people are reaching out for help rather than suffering in silence, and that it is okay to give us a call.

“Measuring the impact of the support we provide isn’t always easy due to the anonymity and confidentiality we give to our callers. But we know, however, our volunteers help to alleviate the feelings of distress.

“Almost three out of four people tell us they feel more understood, less alone or anxious, after contacting the Samaritans.”

The branch has been operating for more than 40 years with volunteers dealing with more than 12,000 calls annually.

The charity also runs regular outreach and awareness raising projects that aim to promote positive conversations about mental health and well-being and to encourage people to access support at times of crisis.

Louise said: “Our volunteers are pretty amazing in what they do, but we can always do with more people to help us to support those who contact us.

“All volunteers receive training and continuous support - and you learn some great skills along the way.

“But the most rewarding part is knowing you are making a difference just by listening.”

The branch is aiming to boost its volunteering team during 2017. Whether it is offering support as a call handler, via email and text or fundraising for the charity.

It costs around £20,000 per year to keep the local service running, with money raised going on the training and support of volunteers and running the branch.

For more information on the Samaritans or volunteering opportunities visit www.samaritans.org

If you are suffering from emotional distress, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org