Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Samaritans calls up in recession

Samaritans volunteer
The charity needs to boost its volunteer numbers

Calls to a Lancashire branch of the Samaritans have soared by 20% during the recession.

More than 300 people in distress call staff at the St Wilfrid Street branch in Preston every week.

But the charity is launching a search for new volunteers because up to 7% of callers cannot get through.

Director Stephen Hall said the branch wanted to provide an additional night shift to cope with the increase and meet its aim of answering every call.

The branch took on an extra 20 volunteers last year and hopes to recruit a further 30 in 2010. It currently has about 55.

Suicidal feelings

"We cannot be sure of the exact reason for the increase in the number of callers, but the recession and hard economic times are certainly playing a part," said Mr Hall.

"Unemployment, or the threat of it, can result in poorer mental health, such as anxiety and depression, lowered self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness - all of which can increase the likelihood that someone will think that life is not worth living."

About 40 calls every week are from people expressing suicidal feelings and at least two of them have taken action to endanger their life, the charity said.

"It is vital we have enough volunteers to be there to listen when people call us," Mr Hall added.

"Being a Samaritan can be immensely rewarding and fulfilling."

An open evening for potential volunteers is being held at the branch on 25 November.

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