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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Samaritans branch facing closure unless volunteers come forward

A crisis charity has warned it will close unless volunteers come forward to help run it.

David Earley photo
David Earley

The Samaritans of West Cumbria has launched an urgent appeal for assistance as volunteer numbers plummet, throwing the service’s future into uncertainty.

The charity has been established in Whitehaven for 40 years and provides confidential, emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.

But if the situation does not improve, it could be as early as January that the charity ceases to exist in west Cumbria, meaning the service for this area will be provided by other parts of northern England including Carlisle and Barrow.

The blow comes at a time when new figures revealed parts of Cumbria – particularly Copeland – are suffering some of the highest rates of suicide and hospital admissions for self-harm in the country.

David Earley, deputy director for recruitment and selection at the west Cumbria branch, called the situation “catastrophic” and issued an urgent plea for people to get on board.

At the moment there are 34 volunteers situated at Whitehaven’s Church Road, who provide a listening ear for people needing to talk, but a further 20 are needed.

“I don’t know why the volunteer numbers have fallen,” Mr Earley said. “People retire and move away. But it will close unless we find more people and that would be catastrophic as it’s a very well-used service in the area.”

Workington MP, Sir Tony Cunningham has thrown his weight behind the appeal, urging people to help keep the lifesaving charity afloat.

“The difference between life and death is often overused, but in this instance, volunteers can make a difference between life and death,” said Sir Tony.

According to the Department of Health, the average suicide rate in England for 2010-12 was eight people per 100,000. In that time, 33 people in Copeland ended their lives making it the second-highest rate in the country.

Mr Earley explained: “Unless the number of listening and support volunteers is increased the branch may have to close.

“This would mean that callers to Samaritans in Whitehaven who need to talk about a wide range of personal difficulties, including suicidal thoughts or feelings, would not have a local branch available to listen to their concerns.”

Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer, as they will be offered full training. In Whitehaven they can expect to work a three to four-hour shift each week, as well as an overnight shift every four to six weeks.

To find out more, contact Mr Earley on 01229 717181 or by emailing earley27@btinternet.com.

There will also be an informal information day on Sunday, September 14 between 2pm and 3.30pm at the Whitehaven branch.

Have your say

Just an observation and an idea. Whenever I pay for something in a smaller shop in Carlisle there's often a small 'collection box' on the counter.
I usually see the familiar (and very worthy) ones such as Eden Valley Hospice and MacMillian Cancer research, but I don't remember coming across one for the Samaritans.
Perhaps they could begin trying to raise funds a bit more aggressively and help pay some sort of wage to the volunteers/would-be employees. Could they even open a charity shop? (if they already have one then I apologise).

It seems that people who are struggling in life (and let's face it, that's probably a hell of a lot more than we dare to imagine) might go to their doctor for some medication, but also for some reassurance that they're not going mad, for example. Doctors are no doubt under pressure to get people in and out as fast as they can, so can't sit and listen to someone pouring their heart out.

Hopefully some time in the near future we'll all be a bit more open about our feelings and then the NHS could put something in place to fulfill the samaritans' role......hope springs eternal.

PS: I'd also advise them to change their name. I think it carries too many negative connotations, just like the spastic society once did. Time for some re-branding?

Posted by M. Sagan on 10 August 2014 at 12:24

Sounds like most charity's these days. They are run as a buisnes with lots of people earning lots of money. Saint John ambulance is another example of volunteers faces needing to fit. I no longer donate money to these so called charity's as they all have to many fat cats making big money and driving fancy company cars

Posted by Sue on 4 August 2014 at 23:31

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