Samaritans are needed more than ever after 60 years

Samaritans volunteer

Samaritans volunteer - Credit: Matthew Usher

A Samaritans volunteer has highlighted the growing demand for its telephone lifeline service ahead of an open day in Great Yarmouth to mark the charity's 60th anniversary.

Volunteers from the branch in North Quay will be on hand to talk about their work from 10am to 2pm on Saturday and visitors will be able to tour the centre and see the rooms where telephones and emails are answered and personal callers are seen.

It is hoped the event will encourage more volunteers so the centre, one of three in Norfolk alongside Norwich and King's Lynn, can be staffed 24 hours a day.

Jonathan - like all Samaritans he prefers to remain anonymous - highlighted the need for more volunteers and more fundraisers because of the relentless rise in the number of calls.

A volunteer for 27 years, he said: 'Demand has especially gone up over the last four or five years because of the recession.

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'The rise in debt has certainly been an issue with pay-day loan companies sometimes a factor, but even people in full-time work are worried about their jobs these days.

'Thirty years ago you could walk into a job that was guaranteed for life and that is not the case any more.'

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A worrying trend was the growth in the number of under-25s becoming suicidally depressed and contacting Samaritans.

He said: 'There has been an upsurge in the number of people contacting us by email, something we started six or seven years ago, and many of those are young people. We have even had young teenagers contacting us.'

He believed there were a lot more pressures on people's lives these days and stresses could range from unemployment to concerns about education or home life; marriage break-ups could have a wide impact on family and friends.

He said: 'We currently have 40 volunteers working three-hour shifts and we would need to double that to staff the centre 24 hours a day.

'Our volunteers are everything from teachers and business people to university leavers. The only age requirement is that they are over 18. Our oldest volunteer recently retired when she was over the age of 80.'

Following a selection process, volunteers had to attend weekly training sessions over nine weeks; they were then placed with a mentor who monitored them until they were completely confident.

Jonathan said: 'I can walk out at the end of a shift and switch off however difficult it might have been, but everyone is different.

'Because it is a totally confidential service, volunteers can't go home and spill out their emotions to their partner. However, we do have internal support.'

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