We are the Samaritans. We do the majority of our work behind closed doors in sound-dampened rooms. We work all hours of the day and night, we are volunteers – some retired, some students – many still holding down a 9-5 job.
We do not wear bright red underpants on top of our trousers, nor do we wear capes. We do not play at being superheroes. If we had to choose a couple of superpowers, they would be empathy and listening. Our Christmas party is an unlikely gathering of different characters that you would struggle to guess what we have in common.
The thing we do have in common is that we have all signed up to undergo nine months of training, making ourselves available to people who are in distress and despair either on the phone or face-to-face. We support people nationally and very importantly in Chesterfield. We raise our funds locally through our shop.
Everyone gives out our phone number – the prison guards, mental health teams, at the end of Coronation Street and Eastenders – when there is a suicide. We are here for everyone – we do not judge, discriminate or tell you what to do, we listen.
Some people ask ‘why would you want to do that’ and I often think that if I got to the end of my tether, where I didn’t know what to do, I would want to speak to someone who would not judge me. On some calls, we could be the last person the caller speaks to and we consider it a privilege to be there for that person.
We have a branch on Saltergate next to the old football stadiumm – you will see the lights burning late into the night. We cannot see anyone after 10pm face-to-face – it’s a health and safety thing – but we will be there on the phone.
We need financial help sometimes and you may see us shaking tins at the railway station or at events like Pride. As a Samaritan, we also support each another emotionally – it’s important.
We have a shop to raise funds, down near Dents in the New Square. Owen, the manager, is always happy to take on new volunteers and donations. Your old unwanted stuff helps keep our lights burning and the phones ringing.
Because we do our work behind closed doors, it’s sometimes hard to raise awareness in our local community that we are here for them. If you are a local school, business, social group and would like to know more, please reach out to us and say hello.
If you are a local business and would like to support us in any way you can, then again please reach out and I will come and see you.
Many people don’t tell their friends, family or workmates that they have called the Samaritans, which is why it can be doubly shocking if someone you know ends their life so abruptly.
You can help us in many ways – it’s not always about cash and tin shaking. Please get in touch if you would like to chat about helping your local branch in Chesterfield. You are not alone.
• You can call Chesterfield Samaritans on 01246 270000. You can also call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email them via firstname.lastname@example.org. The Samaritans are there all day, every day.