A BRANCH of the Samaritans charity which receives more than 1,500 calls a month urgently needs volunteers.

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Satisfying role

A VOLUNTEER at the Bury branch of the Samaritans described the role as “very satisfying”.

The man, who has not been named as Samaritans like to keep a low profile, said some calls could be quite upsetting or abusive, even of a sexual nature, but there was support for the volunteers.

He said one of the most difficult calls he has dealt with was a person who had taken an overdose and wanted to talk it through.

“It’s their choice at the end of the day. And you ask them ‘do you want an ambulance’. Sometimes they say ‘yes, I do need help’ so once they have volunteered their telephone number and address we then call an ambulance and that’s the last we hear of it.

“We don’t get any follow through information. Hopefully we have talked that person out of taking their life.”

The man, who became a volunteer with the Bury branch five or six years ago, said volunteers were supported at the end of their shift and if they had had a particularly “harrowing” call.

“You can have a tough evening, a couple of tough calls. It could be a suicide call. You do need support. The main thing is to off-load after each shift and not take it home with you - try not to anyway.”

Volunteers also respond to emails, face-to-face chats are available and a text message service is due to come in soon.

The branch also offers support to prisoners at HMP Highpoint.

The Samaritans in Bury St Edmunds are looking for ‘support volunteers,’ which Nick Laughton, who is on the management committee, said were “much-needed” at the branch to keep it running.

Support volunteers, which is a recently-launched initiative, are needed to help with areas such as finance, administration, fundraising and IT.

The branch, in Well Street, also has just over 100 ‘listening volunteers,’ who take the calls, but Mr Laughton said they always needed more. He said in the past there had always been an adequate supply of people to do the support jobs, but now, as more volunteers also worked, it was unfair to expect them to have a listening and a support role.

“It’s not just the Bury St Edmunds branch where the profile (of volunteers) has changed, and we need, say, a small group of a dozen volunteers who can take these administration jobs off our hands, so the listening volunteers can concentrate on providing the service to the public,” he said.

The Bury branch received just over 20,000 calls last year, with 3,017 for November and December.

It supports the Samaritans across the region in being able to man the phones 24 hours a day.

Callers are put through to an available branch if they cannot get through to the one in Bury.

Mr Laughton said: “We have to provide a minimum coverage for the region, otherwise we are not supporting the nation. We really have to make sure that rota is filled as much as possible.”

He said support volunteers would be fully trained and supported.

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact 01284 750000 or write to the branch at 46 Well Street, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1EQ.

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