Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Judy Murphy (Interim Director of Newbridge & Kildare), Deputy Martin Heydon (Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) and Aileen Mcleod (Branch Leader). Photo: Fintan Clarke/Coalesce

Samaritans volunteers answered almost 1,000 calls a day last year as people continued to struggle with the impact of COVID and the lifting of restrictions.

The Samaritans Ireland Impact Report for 2021, launched by Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler, showed volunteers spent almost 70,000 hours on the phone giving support to callers.

Samaritans is the only 24-hour emotional support helpline which covers the island of Ireland, with over 2,000 volunteers in 21 branches nationwide (13 in the Republic of Ireland and 8 in Northern Ireland).

Judy Murphy, the interim director of Newbridge & Kildare Samaritans, said they answered approximately 27,500 calls in 2021 which added up to almost 5,000 hours on the phones.

“We currently have 65 listening volunteers in our local branch who dedicate their time and efforts in supporting individuals struggling to cope, feeling isolated or even in a moment of crisis,” she explained.

“I am immensely proud of every single one of our volunteers for what they do. We are always looking for new volunteers to join us. I ask anyone who is interested in volunteering with us to register on www.samaritans.org/ireland/support-us/volunteer/. Our next recruitment will start in the new year with training thereafter.”

Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland, Niall Mulligan, said the pandemic had a profound effect on people’s emotional wellbeing and highlighted the importance of human connection.

During the year, one in five calls for help to Samaritans was from someone worried about the impact of the pandemic, and over a third of callers felt isolated or lonely. Others faced new anxieties as restrictions were lifted.

“As an organisation we were challenged by the continuation of the pandemic and ongoing restrictions, however our amazing volunteers ensured that we were available to talk to our callers and provide them with emotional support,” he remarked.

“Their resilience, determination, and undeterred passion for our work shone through and their level of commitment made sure our freephone helpline number, 116 123, remained open 24 hours a day, seven days a week despite the challenges of the past few years. For that we thank them.”

According to the 2021 Impact Report, volunteers answered a call for help every 64 seconds. The most frequently raised concerns related to mental health or illness (40%), isolation and loneliness (35%), family (32%), relationship problems (20%), and COVID (20%).

A third of all calls were answered between 6pm and midnight, and a call needing emotional support lasted an average 33 minutes. Over 19,000 calls were taken from prisoners in Irish prisons.

By Conor Forrest
Contact Newsdesk: 045 432147

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