Focus: Campaign of the week - Samaritans: 'don't bottle it all up'

Anita Pati, anita.pati@haynet.com

This year's Samaritans winter ad campaign is supported by a galaxy of stars, from Kym Marsh to Cliff Richard, all pushing the message that you don't need to be suicidal before you contact Samaritans.

The charity is focusing on both the young and old this festive season, with a strapline that says "Whether you think it's big or small, don't bottle it up". The campaign also features the singers Toyah Wilcox and Barbara Dickson, and gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh.

A vital element of Samaritans Winter Campaign is to show young people - especially young men, who share problems less than women - that Samaritans is a confidential and non-judgemental round-the-clock service for people with problems they cannot talk to their closest friends about.

According to recent research by the charity, young people are more likely than other age groups to seek comfort rapidly when upset. Seventeen per cent of the 15-24 age group share problems with friends within two days.

However, the research shows that they stop short of talking about taboo subjects such as abuse, domestic violence or drug use. Dr Andrew McDowell, a psychologist recruited by Samaritans to look into the issue, said: "Young people usually have a wide circle of friends, and then two or three who they are very close to. But even they won't be let in on 'secret problems'."

The research also found that a third of people who said they never reached out for help were over 65. "This may be a generational thing," said a spokesman. "That age group might feel they need to be more self-sufficient, but we'd like to think Samaritans is there for them."

The campaign, which was launched yesterday and will run until March next year, includes four images. These will feature on billboards and national and regional press adverts, as well as on the charity's website.

The images, designed to appeal to a younger age group, were created at a discounted rate by the advertising group AMV Lunar Communications. The posters advertise the charity's email address in an attempt to attract younger people.

Samaritans wants to engage people needing emotional support and get them to contact the charity, whether by phone, email, face-to-face or post, before a problem escalates.

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