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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Samaritans need your help - or face closure

A VALUABLE service that helps those in crisis might be forced to close its local branch unless more volunteers come forward.

At a time when West Cumbria’s suicide rate is the highest in the county, Whitehaven Samaritans, which has been helping people for 40 years, needs new recruits.

Anyone, aged 18 or over and from all backgrounds, can apply to become a listener and will be given a weekly training period for 14 weeks to develop their listening skills, guided by a mentor. Those interested can attend an informal session at the Whitehaven branch of the Samaritans, 23 Church Street between 2pm and 3.30pm on September 14.

David Earley of Waberthwaite is deputy director of recruitment for Samaritans in West Cumbria, which covers the area from Carlisle down to Barrow.

“If Whitehaven had to close, it would leave a big gap in provision,” he said. “The Whitehaven branch is experiencing a severe crisis and reaching the stage where the lack of volunteers is placing its future in jeopardy.”

Mr Earley – a retired Ofsted inspector who joined the Samaritans around 18 months ago – says that unless further help is found the branch may have to close early next year.

“This is not about funding – we are well supported by the charity shop that operates on Church Street. It’s people on the ground we need.

“And it’s not all about people who are feeling suicidal, it is a broad range of people, some with mental health or debt problems, some with relationship problems, or problems with drug and alcohol abuse, some feeling desperate or depressed perhaps through bereavement or the anniversary of a bereavement.”

The Whitehaven branch currently has 35 volunteers but needs another 20. A shift lasts three to four hours.

Adds Mr Earley: “If the branch has to close it would mean that callers to Samaritans in Whitehaven who need to talk about a wide range of personal difficulties would not have a local branch available to listen to their concerns.

“We need people who care about others and are able to accept callers just as they are; who are there for everyone no matter what they are going through and who can help them to see a way forward for themselves.”

Recent figures showed the suicide death rate in Cumbria to be slightly higher than the average for England. One Cumbrian is lost to suicide each week of the year. In West Cumbria the rate is slightly higher than the Cumbria average.

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. The incidence is highest among young men.

Call 01946 591158 or email whitehaven@samaritans.org for more information.

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