- 06 Oct 20
Rory Fitzgerald, Regional Director of the Samaritans in the Republic of Ireland, discusses the work they do in relation mental health awareness – and explains why students should seek help if they are in a state of distress.
Since its inception, the Samaritans have been widely perceived as a suicide prevention charity. In truth they are much more than that.
“One of the challenges Samaritans face,” Rory Fitzgerald, Regional Director of the Samaritans in the Republic of Ireland says, “is we’re seen primarily as a ‘suicide charity’ when in fact the majority of people contact us, not because they are feeling suicidal, but because they need to talk through some difficulties they are experiencing. They need someone to listen to them. This is the beauty of what we do: Samaritans are here to listen, no matter what your circumstances are.”
Covid-19 has had a very serious impact on everyone – but students have been among the hardest hit, with a huge level of disruption at a pivotal time in their lives. Samaritans role is to provide confidential, non-judgemental support to students who are struggling to cope.
“As a charity, we’ve been working tirelessly to make sure that we’re able to answer everyone who calls us,” says Rory. “We take a massive number of calls – which, although it seems like a negative thing, is really positive, because it means people are taking that step of reaching out.
“Focusing on students,” he adds, “we’re always trying to ensure that we’re available to them in the medium that they would prefer. So, we respond to people via-email and on the phone. We’re also currently developing an instant messaging service, which we hope will reach a group of people who are at home using social media to communicate.”
A new initiative, Samaritans Self-Help, was devised to help people to keep track of how they’re feeling and get recommendations for things an individual can do in a crisis.
“We know that sometimes it can be difficult to talk about your feelings. Even knowing exactly how you’re feeling can be hard. Samaritans’ Self-Help app helps you be kind to yourself every day.”
Technology, of course, isn’t the ultimate panacea.
“Traditionally,” Rory says, “we’re always trying to make ourselves more visible on the streets and in colleges. We want a face that someone can relate to on a human level, rather than just people in a call centre. That may be more difficult in the Covid-19 world, but we will continue to work to make ourselves available to those who need us.
“Covid 19 has placed additional strain on many people. For students looking after their own mental health, the big thing is: never believe you are alone. If you do feel alone, please talk to someone. It sounds so simple, but it’s vital that students understand the importance of talking to somebody at an early stage.
“Samaritans understand the value of listening and the power of human connection. We’re here to listen, whatever you’re going through. If you need to talk, please telephone us on our confidential freephone - 116 123 - or email us at [email protected]”
• Visit samaritans.org/ireland