The Prince of Wales has led tributes to Dr Chad Varah, the founder of Samaritans, who has died aged 95.
Chad Varah established the Samaritans in 1953
Dr Varah passed away in hospital in Basingstoke, Hampshire, a spokesman for the charity confirmed.
He launched Samaritans from the crypt of St Stephen Walbrook Church, in the city of London, in 1953.
The Prince of Wales, patron of Samaritans, said Dr Varah was a "remarkable man" whose organisation has "saved the lives of countless people".
Felicity Varah, the eldest of Dr Varah's five children, said her father's relationship with Samaritans "had many chapters, from the moment he founded it in his beloved church... through its expansion worldwide".
She said that in his latter years, her father had "stepped back to allow the movement to grow and flourish".
Meanwhile, Steve Evans, the chairman of Samaritans, added: "It was Chad's inspiration and untiring determination that created Samaritans.
"It is our honour and determination to carry on his extraordinary work in the way he would have liked."
Samaritans chief executive Dominic Rudd described Dr Varah as "quite simply an extraordinary man".
An honour to have been a volunteer and ever an admirer.
Meadhbh Keegan, Kerry, Ireland
I have always handed my change when I see a Salvation officer, from Melbourne to London. I never knew the history of the 'extraordinary' Dr Chard, however, what a man!
Matthew Dodd, Kew
I was a Samaritan in inner city Birmingham in the 1970s and the benefit to someone in distress of having a listener without judgement is needed as much as ever
Peter, Crowthorne, Berkshire, UK
I've turned to the Samaritans many times in my darkest hours. They are open-minded and non-judgmental. To say that they've saved the lives of countless numbers of individuals is undoubtedly true.
Brian, New York, NY
I was a volunteer at the Samaritans for six years, and have nothing but respect for the ethos and work of this remarkable charity. They offer confidential, non-judgemental support to anyone who calls, and their policy of not offering advice gives people freedom to explore how they feel without pressure of deciding what to do.
The callers I spoke to over that time were equally inspirational. While we never know how things turn out for them, I often wonder, and hope that they found the experience of discussing their problems with someone who has time to listen useful. Here's to Chad and to his brilliant legacy.
When I was at the depth of despair (totally suicidal) and paralysed with fear (eg legs turned to jelly, but walking the streets of London) the Samaritans was the only place (along with a few churches, but churches close because of vandalism).
I simply can't find the words to describe the work of the Samaritans. Interestingly, it was originally founded by a Christian. I wish all Christians were like the Samaritans.
I spent 13 years as a Samaritan, inspired by Monica Dickens' book "The Listeners". She of course was inspired by Chad Varah. I had the privilege to meet Chad and hear him speak at The Samaritans' National Conference at York in the late '70s.
Maggie Donnelly, Ripon, N Yorks
I've been a volunteer in two branches - Bradford and now Halifax. I started when my (only) son Declan was born in 1999 and can only say that it has changed me life. I read a couple of Chad's books and at a National conference was lucky enough to share breakfast with Dr Varah - he was an immensely humourous character but also had an incredible compassion which only inspired me more. I feel proud and very privileged to be a (small) part of his work and have nothing but admiration for the 18,000+ volunteers across the nation giving up their spare time day and night to help those in distress and despair.
Neil Thomas, Bingley, West Yorkshire, England
I had the honour of meeting Dr. Chad Varah in Kandy Sri Lanka in the eighties. I believe he was a man of great compassion. I believe he showed the world that one human being with a passion for understanding and addressing the needs of people can start a movement which can grow beyond belief and make a positive change for many. I pay tribute to his memory and wish the Samaritans the very best in the work they do.
Sarath Weerasinghe, Surbiton
Thanks to this wonderful man, I have been able to bring myself back from the brink of despair on many occasions, through the Samaritans. God bless you Dr Varah.
Anna, London, UK
I spent many hours talking to people and saw Dr Varah's dream at work. The Samaritan Volunteers work tirelessly and without reward or recognition (all Samaritans work anonymously). The only reward they get is the knowledge that their work helps families and individuals from all walks of life, often being someone's last hope. I think that all Samaritans should be given a medal, or some sort of official recognition for what they do; after all they save the Country thousands of pounds in Social Services and Social Welfare costs.
Chris, Belfast / Ireland
This service was invaluable for me at a time in the past when I was deeply troubled. How can we as a nation remember this man - who founded such a wonderful charity that silently works in the background acting as the 999 service of the emotions - who so many like me owe so much?
I have used the Samaritans a few times over the years and will never forget the kindness they've shown me. One evening I rang them from a phone box and when my money run out, they rang me back. Four and a half hours later, I finally felt better enough, having practically told him my life story, to hang up and look at my problems now that I'd actually been able to talk about them. I have shed a lot of tears over the years, and the Samaritans have always been there, and may they always will be.
Mac, Liverpool, uk
As a Samaritan volunteer for 20 years I like many of my colleagues, am deeply saddened by the loss of Chad Varah, quite simply I wouldn't be the person I am today if not for his influence and inspiration.
Janet Mccarthy, Kings Lynn, UK
I am an ex Samaritan volunteer. It is the most fantastic organisation filled with some of the most caring and dedicated people this country has to offer. All are volunteers who give their time and emotional support to total strangers tirelessly. Chad was a visionary and The Samaritans has saved and improved the lives of countless people in this country and beyond.
When I was a serving Police Officer, I was constantly referring people in great need to the Samaritans, and when they were too distressed to do it themselves, I would phone the local Samaritans for them. They were always a great help and during my 30 years in Sussex Police, I saw many people benefit from their Christian help.
Jim Green, Chichester, West Sussex
I've been a Samaritan for a year, and it's one of the best things I have ever done with my life. I cannot adequately express what a rare and wonderful privilege it is to put yourself and your judgments aside to really listen to someone who needs to be heard. Many people think it's relentlessly grim and that they couldn't cope with being a Samaritan, but it isn't, and they could. It is a movement that self-selects for compassion (and for humour), and there is great camaraderie. I go home after every duty feeling amazed at how lucky I am to be a Samaritan. The recruitment literature says that becoming a Samaritan can change someone's life - your own. It's true. I cannot imagine giving it up.
I have been a Samaritan for nearly 4 years now. I feel so privileged to be part of such a wonderful, supportive and caring organisation. Not only do Samaritans help others to help themselves through the vital listening service they offer, but volunteers themselves can grow too. Through my training, and listening to callers, I have learned more about myself and become a much more confident, tolerant and non-judgemental human being. Thanks Chad!
Pam, Bedford, UK
As someone who has used the services of The Samaritans, over the last 10 years from time to time, and still do by e-mail now, if it had not been for people like Dr Varah, I quite possibly would not be hear now, writing this tribute, to express my condolences to his family, and to say thank you for making possible a way for people of all ages, cultures, and nationalities to feel that if they ever reach the a level of hopelessness in life, there is a facility which will listen to their fears at anytime. It saved my life on more than one occasion. Rest in Peace
Thank you, Chad Varah, for being instrumental in allowing this message to be written. Your work saved my life and many others. One hopes that, if possible and in any way, we can help others to the degree were helped.