Samaritans: there to listen, 24/7

Samaritans: there to listen, 24/7

In 1938 Chad Varah was a vicar in central London. The first funeral he conducted was for a 14 year old girl. On starting her period, the girl believed she had a sexually transmitted disease and, with no one to talk to about it, took her own life.

This experience inspired Chad to launch what he called, “a 999 for the suicidal” and on
5 November, 1953, Samaritans was born.

Chad initially offered his own counselling skills to many people in need of support, both on the phone and face to face. He also received many offers from volunteers keen to help. Originally, volunteers were asked to sit with callers whilst they waited to see Chad, but it soon became clear that in doing so, volunteers were listening to callers’ problems and for many, that was exactly what they needed; in Chad’s own words: “It soon became evident that they were doing the clients more good than I was.”

A safe space

Chad realised the power of the service was in providing a safe space so people could talk and be listened to, without judgment.

And that is what Samaritans still provide today, 65 years later.

People make contact with Samaritans for many different reasons. They offer a safe place for people to talk, at any time and about anything. You don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans; people call to talk about whatever is getting to them, big or small. Samaritans believe that if people are given the time and space to talk things through, they can find a way through their problems.

Samaritans are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round and the service is completely confidential and free.

Chad Varah saw the value of ordinary people who became extraordinary through the simple act of listening; Samaritans still rely on volunteers today.


If you are interested in becoming a Samaritans volunteer, the charity suggest first attending an information session at your local Samaritans branch. Samaritans volunteers come from all walks of life and if you are keen to support them, either as a volunteer or a listening volunteer, they will want to hear from you. For more information, visit:

On 24 July, Samaritans are hosting The Big Listen, a 24-hour event to raise the vital funds needed to keep the helpline going, and to continue their efforts to change the way people talk about suicide and mental health.


You can support Samaritans with a donation, or in lots of other creative ways. For more information, visit:

You can call Samaritans on 116 123, email them at: or visit your local Samaritans branch. You can write to Samaritans at: Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA.

You can also contact The Silver Line, the national confidential and free helpline for older people, on: 0800 4 70 80 90.