Samaritans to focus on counselling provision

The Samaritans is preparing to reposition itself as a counselling and emotional support charity to show that it does more than just help suicidal people.

Research carried out by the communications agency Wolff Olins showed that while the Samaritans enjoys 96 per cent brand awareness in the UK, very few people link it with anything other than suicide. It has now appointed Agency Republic to create a marketing communications campaign which will kick off in November.

Depression, stress and other forms of emotional distress are on the increase and the organisation plans to raise awareness of its work in these areas.

It has already started making a connection between stress and its work.

The charity conducted a national stress survey earlier this summer and launched a rural stress campaign to encourage farmers and communities affected by foot and mouth to seek emotional support.

The Samaritans, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, has always placed an emphasis on befriending and encouraging people to talk about their feelings as well as running its famed emergency service. According to the charity, only 30 per cent of callers express suicidal intent, rising to 50 per cent over email.

"The Samaritans believes that talking about feelings of pain can alleviate emotional distress. This can ultimately make people less likely to take their lives,

said a spokeswoman.

As part of a four-year strategic review, the charity has undertaken an audit of the breadth of its services for the first time. Its new mission and values, emphasise the counselling side of the charity's work. They also express the Samaritans' mission as providing "confidential emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide".

The charity will go through a process of re-educating its staff and volunteers about the refocused brand identity between now and October. The logistical challenges presented by the charity's federal structure - it has 203 trustees taken from each of its branches and one of the lowest ratios of paid staff to volunteers of any charity - means that this process could take months.

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