You can always talk to the Samaritans, day or night – James Jopling

The Samaritans’ Talk To Us awareness campaign is a reminder that we are always there to help in a tough moment, says James Jopling

Monday, 1st July 2019, 6:00 am
Help is only a phone call away with The Samaritans
Help is only a phone call away with The Samaritans

Every six seconds, across the UK and Ireland, someone contacts Samaritans. That’s the kind of figure which, if you say it enough times, you start to take for granted. It’s easy to think about in the abstract and forget that every call, email, text or visit represents someone in crisis or distress; someone who, for whatever reason, desperately feels the need to talk and be listened to.

Since last week we’ve been struggling with another figure, after we learned that 784 people lost their lives to suicide in Scotland in 2018, an increase from 680 deaths the year before. Sixty of those deaths were among people living here in Edinburgh. Each one of those lives lost represents a devastating, heart-breaking loss for family, friends, and colleagues. In a city like Edinburgh – that can often feel more like one big village – there is no doubt each one of those deaths is keenly felt by many of us.

In the face of this, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and despairing. But it’s important to remember that suicide is preventable. The causes of suicide are complex, the circumstances individual to each person. But there are actions we can take to prevent more lives being lost. Ensuring that everyone can access mental health support and treatment is, of course, vitally important. But we know other factors, like worsening worries about money and job insecurity and experiences of relationship breakdown and loneliness, also play a role.

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James Jopling is executive director of Samaritans Scotland

Addressing all these factors requires a more joined-up approach, with national and local government, health and emergency services, schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, charities and communities all working together to make suicide prevention a priority.

It also requires skills that we all use in our everyday lives – talking and listening.

At Samaritans, we know the power of talking and listening first hand.

People call our helpline for a wide range of reasons – they might be struggling to come to terms with a bereavement, be worried about losing a job or struggling with their physical or mental health. The one thing that they all have in common is their need to talk and be listened to at a tough moment in their lives.

Today marks the start of Samaritans’ Talk to Us month, when we’ll be out about in communities across Scotland, reminding people that we’re there to listen, day or night, when times are tough. But Talk to Us has another message too – that we can all play a part in making time for listening in our everyday lives.

Listening already has a special place in the Capital’s history, as Edinburgh is home to Samaritans’ first branch in Scotland. Since the very first call on June 1 1959, volunteers at the Edinburgh branch have been there to listen, every day and night for the last 60 years.

Edinburgh is already world-renowned for being a vibrant, friendly city. By taking the time to be there, to talk and to really listen to our family, friends, co-workers and neighbours, we can make it a listening city too.

Find out more about how you can support others with our SHUSH listening tips at

James Jopling is executive director of Samaritans Scotland