Dublin Samaritans’ Volunteers double their hours to cope with pandemic pressure

EVERY six minutes someone in distress phones Dublin Samaritans. The ‘listening’ service provides a lifeline to thousands of people in Ireland each year who are troubled, in distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide. Run by volunteers, many have doubled their listening hours to ensure that the service can remain open 24/7 at this crucial time.

The Pandemic has placed the organisation under immense pressure. Run by 290 unpaid volunteers who devote their time to offer a non-judgemental and empathetic listener to those in need. A volunteer usually commits to a three hour shift every week and one overnight per month. With added pressures from the Pandemic, many are now doing two shifts weekly and two overnights to ensure that the service remains available to everyone who needs it 24 hours a day. Dublin Samaritans is the largest branch in Ireland and provides approximately 20 per cent of the total listening time, over 14,000 hours of listening in 2020.

Throughout lockdown almost all callers have mentioned Covid-19 as contributing to their distress and reason for calling the Dublin Samaritans. A Samaritan is available 24/7.

Director of Dublin Samaritans, Anne Vaughan said,

“Ordinary people do not only experience anxiety between the set hours of nine to five. As we all know, pressures can become overwhelming at any time of the day or night and it is vital that we can continue to offer a confidential and non-judgemental listening service to those who need it… 24/7.”

People who call us are from every walk of life and age bracket. They talk to us about a range of topics including loneliness, isolation, relationships, finance, abuse, the future, and, in the last year, the struggles of living through lockdown features in almost every call. It’s so important to talk and our amazing volunteers are specially trained to just listen without judgement.” Anne, who is a volunteer, went on to say.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Dublin Samaritans. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer participates in an interview and follow-up selection process. Potential volunteers undergo comprehensive training before they can take calls. They are then mentored for a period of time and, following a final interview, they become full volunteers. Volunteers all participate in continuous ongoing training.

Dublin Samaritans is one of 22 voluntary-run branches across Ireland. The organisation also engages with people via email and offers one-to-one personal sessions when restrictions allow. Anyone who is experiencing distress can contact Dublin Samaritans on its free phoneline 116 123, free even to a mobile with no credit,  or visit www.samaritans.org/ireland/branches/dublin.

Like all charities the Dublin Samaritans has seen a drop in fund-raising opportunities and in donations. Dublin Samaritans is volunteer run, employing just one full-time and one part-time administrator to organise the running of the branch.

“If something is troubling you, no matter how large or small you feel it may be, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.” concluded Anne Vaughan.

Those who wish to contact the service can call 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org/ireland/branches/dublin