Samaritans struggle to cope with growing number of calls


Staff reporter (Rhyl Journal)

A shortage of volunteers is making it difficult for the Samaritans to cope with the growing number of callers seeking help and support.

The pressure on the service is particularly severe at night, when most calls are received but when it is harder to man the phones.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Rhyl-based branch of the charity which covers North-East Wales and with the workload forever growing more volunteers are being sought.

Each year the centre receives more than 9,400 calls from people, many desperate for help or at the end of their tether, while others are merely lonely and need someone to talk to in a bid to head off an impending crisis.

The role of the volunteers is to lend an ear and not offer advice, though the callers can be pointed in the direction of organisations able to help with specific issues.

There are 40 volunteers on the Rhyl register, about a quarter of them Welsh-speakers, but that is insufficient to enable the centre to be permanently manned When no local volunteers are available calls are directed to the Samaritans’ national network.

Each year in Wales 300-350 people commit suicide but Rosemary Howell, director of the Rhyl branch, said they would like people to contact them before reaching such a desperate stage.

“There is a lot more which could be done if we had enough volunteers. But at the moment we can maintain the service only because we have a national network.”

Research has shown that men aged 35-55 from low socio-economic background are those at greatest risk of suicide and the organisation has done much to target that group and raise awareness.

“We have been working very closely with Network Rail and British Transport Police by trying to make railways safer places, providing information on platforms and training staff to be aware of particular behaviour patterns,” said Rosemary.

Financial worries are becoming an increasingly prominent feature in many of the calls.

“That is particularly so in this part of West Rhyl and it is worrying,” said Rosemary. “There are fewer and fewer jobs about and many of the jobs which are available are low-paid, so we are receiving more calls as a result.”

Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest periods for callers, and the number of calls at night is on the increase.

Despite the charity having been in existence for more than 60 years Rosemary says that a surprisingly high proportion of the public are unaware of it or of its function.

Anyone interested in volunteering should call 08705 627282.

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