The Samaritans started with a one man and telephone offering a ‘999 service for the suicidal’ in 1953.
Chad Varah was moved to act after attending the funeral of a teenager who had taken her own life. He would later pay tribute saying: “Little girl, I didn't know you, but you have changed the rest of my life for good."
His credo was ‘a man willing to listen’ and after finishing work as a clergyman and he would man the phone until the small hours.
The organisation’s name stuck after an advert Chad placed in the newspapers titled ‘Ring a Good Samaritan.’
Today, the charity has more than 40,000 volunteers providing a round-the-clock service to people in crisis.
Danielle Mercey is director of the Harrow branch which has 80 volunteers providing a seven day-a-week telephone service.
“I’d encourage anyone thinking of volunteering to find out more. It is hugely rewarding and just listening to someone can make a big difference when they feel they have no one else to turn to".
Nowadays, the Samaritans have a wider remit than its founder’s original intentions of solely supporting those who felt suicidal. It offers wider support to people in emotional crisis whether it be mental health difficulties, money problems, relationship breakups, loneliness, abusive relationships, or bereavement.
Danielle added: “We can’t fix things, but we can listen. Sometimes that brings its own solutions because people are often thinking out loud when they talk.”
The former hospital consultant says it is a privilege to continue helping people in her retirement with volunteers working three hour shifts in their Station Road branch.
The organisation also offers outreach work in businesses and schools when asked, and even pitched up at the recent Glastonbury Festival.
If you would like to volunteer with the Samaritans, sign up on their website. Samaritans are aware that there is a bit of a wait for interviews and training places but if you can be patient it may prove to be the most rewarding experience of your life.