Five years ago, we published our first blog with the Chester branch of The Samaritans ( The Samaritans – The Chester blog) and have been proud to support the charity with fundraising over the years. We spoke to The Samaritans for an update on their work supporting the community.
With Covid closing down most businesses and organisations last year, Samaritans were classed by the Government as key workers, so the Chester and District Branch has remained open throughout the pandemic. “Some of the volunteers have had to self-isolate, and some have been working from home.” Says Sean, a Samaritans Listening Volunteer at Chester Branch. “We also provided a specific NHS helpline for anyone working in the NHS to cope with what they have been going through, and some of our volunteers are assisting with that. We have kept our branch Covid-Safe like other companies via social distancing, cleansing, and other measures – fortunately some people have reached out to us and given us some cleaning equipment as well.”
Samaritans can be contacted by phone or email by those who feel in emotional distress. The charity is also currently trialling a webchat service which will hopefully be rolled out later this year. “Its not just if people are feeling suicidal” stressed Sean, “the first step when things build up in your mind is reaching out and talking to someone and allowing yourself to understand those thoughts. We are here for anyone who feels they are in emotional distress, and anyone who feels they have nowhere else to turn and needs to talk”. In 2019 the branch answered over 19,000 phone calls and over 7000 emails and texts.
Samaritans was rebranded and modernised in March 2019, as part of a national scheme focussing around the concept of human connections, to make us more accessible to a wider audience within our communities.
“At Chester Branch we were lucky to have been left some money which has allowed us to update our ageing branch – We rebranded externally, increased the size of our training room, and made the branch more comfortable for our hard working volunteers.” Chester currently has nearly 100 listening volunteers, and a further 20+ volunteers who work outside the branch raising awareness and fundraising.
In normal times the Chester Branch outreach team give interviews and talks to companies and schools, promoting the ways Samaritans can support, as well as what people can do for themselves in terms of mental health self care. “Unfortunately all such outreach work has been stopped due to the pandemic, and fundraising has also been replaced by virtual activities” A virtual “Samarathon” held last summer raised £4,387 for our Branch and the event is planned again for 2021. “This was a really fun event, and those involved has lots of fun – while also keeping fit!
“The Chester and District Branch of Samaritans costs £1000+ per month to run, and every donation given means that we can be there for someone in distress when they need it most.”
The pandemic has increased the mental health challenges for many of us. “We have seen that people have been struggling and people have missed out on their regular support, so they have reached out to Samaritans for help. Hopefully we have provided someone to listen in these difficult times. We are getting our normal kinds of calls and emails from people in distress, but there’s also an increase in calls and emails from people feeling isolated and looking for ways to cope through this time.” says Sean.
Although face to face contact has been paused due to Covid, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 )free from any phone) or email firstname.lastname@example.org