Sixty years ago Chad Varah – a
vicar - founded Samaritans. He was
inspired by an experience he had as a young curate in London when a 14 year old girl killed herself. She believed she had an STD when in reality
she was just menstruating. Lincoln
Varah advertised for people to volunteer at his church to listen to people contemplating suicide. The movement grew and there are now 203 branches across the
In 2004 the number of volunteers had diminished and they campaigned to recruit more young people. Phil Selway a drummer with the band Radiohead and a volunteer himself fronted the campaign.
The Samaritans is a telephone helpline which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is also a drop-in service for face to face discussion and they train prisoners as’Listeners’ to provide support within prisons. Recently they have started sending teams out on to the street.
The Samaritans have always stressed that the service they provide is not counselling and will not give advice. Although they are trained in many of the same techniques as professional counsellors they neither judge nor tell people what to do. By listening and asking questions the volunteers help people explore their feelings and work their own way forward.
Samaritans do not denounce suicide and it is not necessary to be suicidal to contact them. They believe that by giving people the opportunity to be listened to in confidence and accepted without prejudice enables them to explore their feelings and work their own way forward.
There is a strict code of confidentiality, even after the death of a caller. This is only broken on rare occasions such as when Samaritans receive a bomb or terrorist warnings or when a caller is threatening volunteers or deliberately preventing the service being used by other callers.
On a lighter note it is the 50th anniversary of our great National Theatre which first started in 1963 at the Old Vic under Laurence Olivier.
‘ 800 productions later we are marking our half century with a short season celebrating the remarkable people and plays that have made the NT one of the most cherished and creative of great British institutions.’
I count myself fortunate to have seen some of these. I particularly remember the excitement and anticipation before Olivier’s first entrance as Othello. Of course now it would be unthinkable to have a white actor ‘blacked up’ to play the part but times were different then. There was a gasp as he appeared; he seemed to have grown in stature – his voice had dropped a couple of octaves, reminiscent of Paul RobesonAnd there was a stillness about him which made all his later rage and fury totally riveting.
It would have been MTL’s birthday today. He used to mark important dates in the diaries at the beginning of the year and - unbeknownst to me had written:-
November 4th – A’s Birthday?