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Wednesday, 13 October, 1999, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
Samaritans struggling with suicide burden
The Samaritans say suicidal people need someone to listen to them
Suicide attempts have risen by 70% in the UK since 1990, placing an increasing burden on the Samaritans.

Mental Health
The charity is launching its first national fundraising campaign as part of Samaritans Week, which begins on Friday.

It says it cost 8.4m to run the charity in 1998 and the figure is increasing all the time because of the rising number of calls it is receiving and the increasing number of outreach work it is doing.

The charity, which runs a free 24-hour phone counselling service, says its phone bill alone costs 1m a year.

No immediate threat

A spokesman said none of its services was under immediate threat because of funding problems.

But he added that the charity relied on donations and if they did not keep increasing, services could be at risk in 10 years.

It is estimated that two young people commit suicide every day in the UK.

Some 75% of suicides are men. The Samaritans calculate that 29% of people know someone who has died by suicide.

It adds that five million working days are lost a year in the UK due to stress, depression and anxiety.

Samaritans has 19,600 volunteers who man phonelines and do outreach work, such as visiting schools to tell children of the importance of talking about problems.

In Scotland, where a suicide is committed every 10 hours, there is a need for an extra thousand volunteers.

Farmers are said to be particularly vulnerable, along with vets, doctors and dentists - all stressful jobs with the medical knowledge of how to succeed with suicide.

The charity has also recently launched a "listener" project in prisons, where suicide rates have been increasing.

Volunteers offer support to prisoners deemed to be at risk of suicide.

The charity is launching a report called The Cost of Living on Friday which shows that, if each of its volunteer was paid a minimum wage, it would add an extra 11m to its running costs.

Training each Samaritans volunteer costs 18, 96% of which comes from public donations.

Emotional taboos

Simon Armson, Chief Executive of the charity, said: "Only 4% of our funds comes from the government, for the other 8.1m we need to raise per year, we rely on the public.

"Last year, charitable donations enabled 19,600 Samaritan volunteers to give 3.1 million hours of listening. We couldn't do it without the public."

A survey showed the public would pay an average of 3.81 extra a month to keep Samaritans going.

The charity hopes its advertising campaign will help get that money coming in.

Other events for Samaritans Week include the launch of a teachers' guide to help pupils through anxiety, depression and suicide and encourage classroom discussion of emotional taboos.

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