Loneliness and isolation were the main reasons Irish people contacted the Samaritans in 2020, according to the charity’s annual report published today.

Published ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, which takes place on September 10, the Samaritans Ireland Impact Report 2020 highlighted Covid-19 as the most serious challenge faced by the Samaritans’ in its 60 years.

Volunteers answered a call for help every 56 seconds last year, with 6:00p.m-10:00p.m being the busiest time – more than a quarter of calls were answered during this window.

Image source: Samaritans Ireland Impact Report 2020

Samaritans a vital link

The charity’s executive director, Niall Mulligan, said the Samaritans’ service was a vital link for those in need of support, with volunteers listening for more than 100,000 hours during the year.

“Coronavirus has undoubtedly been the most serious challenge Samaritans has faced in our 60 years in Ireland, but we know we are needed now more than ever,” Niall said.

“Not only was it very difficult for our callers, but also for our volunteers, and it was their resilience and spirit ensuring we were there when needed most.

“While loneliness and isolation remained along the top reasons why people called, we also supported those with a mental health crisis, with family or relationship issues, job or financial insecurity, bereavement and anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic.”

Key highlights from 2020:
1. 2,300 volunteers (RoI & NI) answered a call for help every 56 seconds;
2. Over 560,000 calls and emails were answered;
3. Listened for over 100,000 hours;
4. Remained open 24/7 despite 40% of volunteers cocooning at one stage;
5. Extended its helpline into Irish diaspora living in Australia and Canada;
6. Celebrated 50 years of service in Dublin.

“Every single Samaritan volunteer, staff member, fundraiser, partner and supporter in Ireland played a role in keeping our services running and allowed us to continue working towards our vision that fewer people die by suicide,” he continued.

Isolation and loneliness
According to the report, an increasing number of callers said the long-term impacts of isolation had left them feeling less able to cope as the pandemic went on.

“Each of them should be proud of what they personally contributed when most needed,” Niall said.