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29th Jun, 2022

Always there for you to turn to...

Worcester Editorial 31st Dec, 2013 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

FOR MANY people in the city, New Years Eve is one of the happiest times of the year as they meet up with family and friends to welcome in 2014.

But for others, some who may be alone, the start of a new year can signal a time of despair and they may need someone to turn to.

Observer editor Gary Smee went along to the Worcester branch of the Samaritans, which marked its 50th birthday earlier this year, to find out more about the help they can offer.

IN 2012, Worcester Samaritans took almost 12,500 phone calls, answered more than 800 e-mails and received just under 10,000 silent calls from people who felt they had no one else to go to.

This year there is no sign of that figure decreasing with the numbers of people turning to the city’s Samaritans for help expected to be the same or slightly more.

At this time of year many people are enjoying a well-deserved break, but for the Samaritans’ thousands of volunteers in all corners of the country there is no time to rest as the phone-lines have to be manned 24-hours a day.

The Worcester branch, which has just relocated to a new office in Sansome Place, has almost 120 dedicated volunteers who give up their own time to help others in need.

Jan Cowton, spokeswoman for the branch, said although many people think of Samaritans as a helpline for people threatening suicide, they were there to deal with an array of problems.

“We’re trying to encourage people to phone us because people say to us, ‘we don’t want to bother you, you’re only really there if people want to kill themselves,’ but we’re not,” she said.

“We’re here for everything. There are specifically targeted helplines, but when we were set up, we were the first helpline.

“Name a problem and we’ll help with it – debt, relationship break ups, illness, loneliness is at the bottom of so much of it. Anything you can think of, we deal with.

“If there’s another organisation that we’re partnered with which could possibly give more specific in depth help, we’ll point out they exist.”

All of Worcester Samaritans volunteers have to undergo an extensive training programme to make sure they are ready to deal with the most difficult of calls from suicide to abuse.

Jan said one of their biggest advantages was that anyone could come to them in complete confidence.

“We give emotional support. The biggest thing we are about is that we are completely confidential,” she said.

” They can tell us absolutely anything and it’s going nowhere. It’s the thing that really sets us apart.

“We’re trained to ask the sort of questions that will help people open up. We explore with a caller what their options are but we like the answers to come from the caller because if we suggest something they’ll probably say thank you very much and off they go and it doesn’t help.

“We don’t try to talk people out of killing themselves because it doesn’t work. If they want to kill themselves, they will, but what we do is try and get to the root cause underneath and see if we can get the caller to think through why they have got to that stage. And whether if that is really what they want to do.

“The very very bottom line, is that if that is what they really want, then that’s their choice and we’ll still be there and we’ll stay there and we won’t try to argue with them, but we will explore every avenue first.”

And Jan said the festive period was one of their busiest.

“Around Christmas and New Year we do see and increase in the number of calls we receive, because when everybody else seems to be happy you think you’re the only person in the world who’s not,” she added.

The Worcester branch is continually on the lookout for new volunteers having expanded significantly since it was started by a group of clergy and doctors from Powick Hospital on October 3, 1963.

And with their new building at 10, Sansome Place, now equipped to cope with the latest technology and recruit and train more volunteers, Jan said there was no better time to get involved with the charity.

“There is an immense satisfaction at helping people,” she added.

“When we’re selecting new volunteers we look for people who are natural listeners.

“We need people who can listen and empathise, without judging.

“As with any other voluntary organisation, it is just lovely people to work with.”

To get in touch with Worcester Samaritans call 01905 21121 or the 24-hour helpline on 08457 90 90 90. The office in Sansome Place is open from 9am until 10pm, Monday to Saturday and 9am until 3pm on Sundays. Anyone who would prefer to e-mail can write to jo@samaritans.org.

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