Samaritans: The world may move on but we all need a helping hand sometimes

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“There are people in this world, in every country, people who seem to be ‘ordinary’, but who turn out to be extra-ordinary. They give their total attention.

“They completely forget themselves. They listen and listen and listen, without interrupting. They have no message. They do not preach. They have nothing to sell. We call them Samaritans”

So said Chad Varah, was the London vicar who, with his vision of ‘befriending the despairing’ created the Samaritans. Having buried a 14 year old girl who took her life thinking her periods were an STD, he wanted to help people who were in despair.

Starting in November 1953, Chad Varah answered telephone calls in his vestry and talked with face to face callers. Soon a band of volunteers arrived to offer cups of tea and listen as the visitors shared their worries and spoke of their despair. And so was born the Samaritans’ service, which is – in many ways – unchanged.

Here in Hastings, a small band of volunteers answer calls from people who feel they have no-one else to talk to, answering nearly 5000 telephone calls in the first six months of this year alone. Of course, technology doesn’t sit still, and today, that volunteer in Hastings may be on the phone, but is just as likely to be answering an email or responding to an SMS text message.

Suicide may no longer be illegal as it was in the early Fifties, but for some it is hard to talk about and, in this age of apparent success and achievement, admitting you can’t cope might seem a failure. So today, it is even more important that the little band of Samaritans sit in their Hastings office and ‘listen and listen and listen, without interrupting’.

If you want someone to listen to you, whilst the Hastings branch is not open all the time, nationally the Samaritans’ service is available round the clock, every single day of the year. This is a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

If things are getting to you, or you are worried about how you are coping at the moment, please call Hastings and Rother Samaritans - our local phone number is 01424 436666. You can also call free on 116 123, or email us – jo@samaritans.org