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Watford Samaritans to celebrate 60th anniversary with collection box fundraiser
The Samaritans will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of listening by putting 60 collection boxes out south west Hertfordshire to help raise more funds to enable the charity to continue providing emotional support.
The charity opened in Watford in 1969 when the first Director, Graham, secured premises in 2 Local Board Road.
The organisation quickly became part of the community and is now one of the town’s oldest charities.
On Saturday, November 9, 1991 Watford Samaritans moved to 45 St Johns Road, and the new premises was opened by Barbara Windsor.
Last year alone, Watford Samaritans answered 12,433 phone calls, received 106 visitors, replied to 953 emails and 702 texts.
Samaritans was founded 60-years-ago, in November 1953 by Prebendary Dr Chad Varah CH CBE.
He had the idea when he conducted the funeral of a 14-year-old girl who had taken her own life, after she started menstruating and thought she was gravely ill.
Dr Varah vowed at her graveside to devote himself to helping other people overcome the sort of isolation and ignorance that had caused the girl to die in this way.
He vowed to do it through a combination of education and the provision of access to emotional support in times of need.
When he was offered charge of the parish of St Stephen Walbrook in London in the summer of 1953 Dr Varah decided the time was right for him to launch what he called a "999 for the suicidal".
At the time suicide was illegal and many people who were in difficult situations and who felt suicidal were unable to talk to anyone about it without worrying about the consequences.
A confidential emergency service for people "in distress" was what Dr Varah felt was needed to address the problems he saw around him.
He was, in his own words, "a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone". The first call to the service was made on November 2, 1953 and this date is recognised as Samaritans' official birthday.
When that first call was made, the UK was a very different place. Almost everyone was white, racial and sexual discrimination was perfectly legal and homosexuality and abortion were not.
Samaritans was the world’s first 24 hour telephone helpline which has grown from "one man in one room with one phone" to a service delivered today by 20,980 volunteers in 201 branches across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Someone contacts Samaritans every six seconds and during the past 60 years, more than 127,000 volunteers have answered in excess of 115 million calls for help.
People can talk to Samaritans any time, in their own way and confidentially, about whatever is getting to them. They do not have to be suicidal, there is no typical person who calls Samaritans' helpline and there is no typical problem that people talk to us about.
Samaritans listens to people talk about job stresses, being out of work, money troubles, family struggles, relationship issues, trying to measure up, feeling alone, feeling worthless, feeling sad or angry all the time, getting into trouble, being abused, feeling suicidal, or needing to alcohol to get through the day. These issues have remained pretty consistent over the past 60 years.
What has changed is the ways in which people communicate with the Samaritans. Sixty years ago, many people did not have a telephone at home, and many people either had to use a public telephone or contact Samaritans by letter.
Today the telephone is still the main way to talk to, but emails and text messages are increasing rapidly, although some letters are still sent by "snail mail". In addition Samaritans have an ever growing number of outreach projects, where volunteers work in hospitals, schools, job centres, food banks and prisons.
Partnerships are an effective way to pass Samaritans expertise to other organisations, particularly those working with vulnerable people. The growing dangers posed by the online environment are a concern so the Samaritans have established partnerships with both Facebook and Google, and the charity also work sto reduce suicide on the railway by working closely with Network Rail.
Suicide has always been a public health issue and Samaritans has played a vital role in society. In 2011, there were over 6, 500 suicides across the UK and the ROI. For every suicide, there are approximately 20 attempts made, which means in that same year, there would have been more than 120,000 attempts.
This is why help from Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year. Samaritans provide that safe place to talk for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.
Samaritans have six decades of being there for those people who need help and they hope to continue doing so for the next 60 years and beyond.
To mark Samaritans’ diamond year, the charity is asking people to help them be there for the next 60 years by texting ‘SUPPORT’ to 70123* to make a £3 donation.
Watford Samaritans can be contacted 01923 233333.
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