PM leads tributes to Samaritans
Saturday 2nd November 2013, 7:10PM GMT.
Prime Minister David Cameron has led the chorus of praise for the Samaritans as the charity celebrated its 60th anniversary today.
The Conservative Party leader said he is a “huge admirer” of the work done by the organisation, which was set up in 1953 to provide confidential support for people in emotional crisis or contemplating killing themselves.
He is among a host of celebrities and public figures, including actor Stephen Fry and Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who have spoken of the importance of the work the charity does with some of Britain’s most vulnerable people.
Mr Cameron said: “Samaritans continues to provide an excellent service for those who are especially vulnerable and in difficulty.
“Over the years they have been a vital source of support, advice and comfort for people, and I am a huge admirer of their work.
“I want to congratulate them on their 60th birthday and wish them well for the next 60 years.”
The charity was set up by vicar Chad Varah who took his first call on the confidential hotline set up at the church of St Stephen Walbrook on November 2 1953 – when suicide was illegal.
Since then 127,000 volunteers have answered 115 million calls for help across more than 200 branches across the UK.
Among those who have called the helpline is singer Linda Nolan, who became depressed following the death of her husband Brian from skin cancer in 2007.
The singer, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and had to undergo a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, contacted the Samaritans three days after her husband died.
Praising the support the charity gives, the 54-year-old said: “Samaritans is a cause very close to my heart, calling them saved my life when I was going through a really tough time.
“It’s amazing that despite the way in which communication has evolved over the last 60 years, the importance of providing one on one human support is valued more than ever.”
Actor Fry, who has bipolar disorder and revealed earlier this year that he tried to kill himself, said: “I can’t emphasise enough the importance of Samaritans, who 60 years on, continue to provide incredibly valuable support to people, at a time when they most need it.
“Knowing they are at the end of the phone throughout the night, when other services are closed, can make life seem a lot less lonely.
“There is nothing that can replace Samaritans, its service is unique, proven, and brilliant. I am confident that over the next 60 years the charity will continue to evolve, reaching out to even more people in need of help.”
Tonight London’s BT Tower beamed out an anniversary message to the charity and two traditional red telephone boxes in the City of London were painted the organisation’s signature green colour.
Felicity Varah Harding, daughter of the Samaritans founder, said: ” My father began Samaritans, with just one telephone.
“It’s wonderful to see how the charity has grown and flourished over the 60 years since he took that first call in 1953. The challenge now is to look to the future. As the way people choose to communicate changes over time, we need to continue to evolve, combining technology with compassion, to reach people who still so desperately need our help.”