At Samaritans, our vision is that fewer people die by suicide.
We trace our beginnings back to the inspiration that led Chad Varah to establish what he called “an emergency number for suicidal people”. On 2nd November 1953, he answered the first ever call to a brand-new helpline for people contemplating suicide. Nearly 70 years on, his vision remains at the heart of what we do.
Of our 20,000 volunteers over 1,200 are trained prison listeners, providing peer support in prisons across the UK. Our volunteer structure works alongside 250 staff, headed by our CEO and Executive Leadership Team (ELT), and responsible for strategic and operational delivery aligned to our purpose. We operate a confidential listening service, responding to a call for help every six seconds. We are available to people who need emotional support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, through 201 branches across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. We also support those who need us most via email, webchat, letter, face to face and through our Welsh language service.
Today, we are a charitable company limited by guarantee, and income was around £20m in 2019-20. Our Central Office in Surrey supports our branches, Regional Directors, Regional Officers, Functional Leads and the Board of Trustees. Specifically, we ensure that our phone and email systems are constantly available to our callers; we maintain our online and digital services; carry out research, development and evaluation to support our influencing work and development of the service; support our volunteer recruitment and development activity; raise income to underpin the whole organisation; and provide a range of support, advice and guidance to branches.
Samaritans is also an important and influential voice across the UK and Ireland on issues relating to suicide prevention. This is achieved through our proactive and far-reaching research, campaigns, and policy agenda. We build alliances and meaningful partnerships across society to support our vision that fewer people die by suicide. These partnerships enable us to respond when and where people need us the most. Our current strategy runs until the end of 2021, and we are now actively engaged in reflecting and consulting about how we should plan, develop and prioritise in what will be a very challenging future.