The emotional support charity is spending £130,000 on the pioneering programme after its research showed that more than 80 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds were more likely to text than to call each other. Volunteers will be able to send messages of no more than 160 characters to distressed texters across the UK 365 days a year. The charity estimates there would be an average of 20 exchanges before the texter was advised what to do next.
Samaritans involved the National Deaf Children's Society, the Connexions service and the YMCA in its research for the service.
The initiative is the culmination of two years of feasibility studies in Samaritans branches, schools and music festivals. It will be reviewed in October.
The charity is publicising the service through posters and 500,000 pocket phone leaflets to be circulated through colleges, youth groups, bars and GPs' surgeries.
Danny McNamara, lead singer of Embrace, which has recorded the England team's song for this year's World Cup, is heading the publicity campaign.