Samaritans of Cornwall – more than a listening service

Samaritans of Cornwall at Truro have been providing emotional support to the people of Cornwall and beyond since 1970, and today provide almost 24/7 listening support through a team of 120 volunteers. The branch is the only one located in Cornwall and covers almost all of the county, with volunteers travelling up to an hour from as far away as Launceston in the east and St Just in the west to cover their shifts.

The branch is located in the county’s only city, Truro, however the team try to get out to the more remote areas through the provision of outreach services in some of the most deprived areas in Europe. The branch is supported by a market stall that operates three days a week, selling ‘pre-loved goods’. The stall brings in about one third of the branches annual running costs.

In addition to providing support to over 53,000 people via phone, text and email each year, Samaritan volunteers in Cornwall play an active role in trying to reduce the very high level of suicides in the region. Cornwall has an average of 14.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 of population compared to the national average of 10.1.

Working with partners to prevent suicide

  • The branch is an active member of the Multi Agency Suicide Prevention Group (MASPG) and has collaborated and presented at three Towards Zero Conferences, including running workshops on listening skills. As part of the MASPG they were involved with the postvention planning for schools and education, helping to devise a pathway of support available to students, teachers, parents and the wider community.
  • Volunteers worked with Cornwall Partnership Foundation NHS Trust, St Austell Brewery and BBC Radio Cornwall on the Don’t Flush Your Life Away campaign to provide posters to pubs, sports clubs and workplaces raising awareness of mental health in places like men’s toilets. The pictures focus mainly on men, but new versions are published regularly addressing different sectors of the community. This initiative has been picked up in other regions throughout the country.
  • The branch collaborates with other local and national initiatives to raise awareness of the need to reach out for and provide emotional support, and to remind people that Samaritans is there in times of crisis.

Providing support

  • The branch has volunteers who work with local public spaces to provide support in the event of a suicide and to raise awareness, they currently have a stand at a local station promoting Brew Monday in January and had one in July promoting Time to Talk.
  • On Friday nights, two volunteers take part in an outreach programme at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust A&E from 10pm to 1.30am providing emotional support for staff, patients and their families/carers.
  • There is a monthly outreach programme at the Plant Eat and Teach project in Penzance where volunteers work alongside people who have experienced major life events and mental health issues, or who are struggling to cope with life.
  • The branch provides third party referral support to the Psychiatric Liaison Team, Cornwall Housing, Newquay Community Orchard, Camborne, Pool and Redruth Foodbank, Penryn Campus student services and the Community Adult Social Care Team.
  • There is an active educational programme, organising talks at schools and colleges throughout the county, as well as a busy Talks Team who go into workplaces and community groups, WI’s, Rotary etc to raise awareness of their services.

What does the future hold for the branch?

The next initiative is to open a satellite branch on Penryn Campus at the University of Exeter and Falmouth University aimed at raising awareness of Samaritans support, and to attract volunteers from the staff and student bodies. Initially this will provide phone, email and text support as part of the wider organisation, but once there are sufficient volunteers the aim is to provide a face-to-face drop-in at weekends.

Alongside this, the team have reviewed their current premises and agreed they aren’t fit for purpose for the future. A major fundraising and awareness campaign has been launched and the search is on to find a new home that will provide better access for volunteers and callers, be more economically efficient to run and potentially provide an income to reduce the requirement for fundraising.

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