Each year throughout July the Samaritans run their Talk to Us campaign with the aim to raise awareness of the charity for anyone who’s struggling to cope. Whether it’s a virtual chitchat, or a picnic in the park, Talk to Us is one of the ways the charity raises awareness that they’re there for anyone 24/7, without judgement or pressure.

On July 24th they celebrate Samaritans Awareness Day, purposefully celebrated on this day to highlight the fact that Samaritans are there to listen to anyone that needs it 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.

Samaritans is not only for the moment of crisis, but they are also taking action to prevent the crisis. By giving people ways to cope and the skills to be there for others, they encourage, promote and celebrate those moments of connection between people that can save lives.

Although not a religious organisation, Samaritans was founded by a vicar named Chad Varah in 1953 in London. Throughout his career Chad had offered counselling to his parishioners and wanted to do something more specific to help people contemplating suicide. In Chad’s own words, the service started as “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone”. On 2nd November 1953, Chad took his first ever call – this date is now recognised as Samaritans’ official birthday.

In December 1953, a month after launching, the Daily Mirror coined the phrase ‘Telephone Good Samaritan’ – the name stuck, and word spread far and wide. Many people offered to volunteer, and they would sit with people as they waited for a counselling appointment with Chad. He soon found, however, that people would share their problems with the volunteers and no longer felt the need to talk to Chad afterwards. He realised the power of volunteers to listen, confidentially without judgement, was the real strength of the service.

In February 1954 Chad officially handed over the task of supporting the callers to volunteers, and Samaritans as we know it today was born. Although starting as a London-based service, a lot of interest was generated across the UK and a second Samaritans was opened in Edinburgh, which took its first call on 1st June 1959. Today there are more than 200 branches across the UK and Ireland with over 22,000 volunteers.

Samaritans are encouraging people to become better listeners this July. So, why not get involved on social media on July 24th and pledge to become a better listener?

Becoming a better listener can help you support loved ones who may be struggling to cope. It can also help improve your relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. You could help your loved ones open up about how they’re feeling by making some small changes to the way you listen. Samaritans are asking you to try pledge one of the following things:

Listen without being distracted:

Try things like making eye contact, putting your phone away and focusing completely on the other person. If you’re talking to someone on the phone, try doing it in a quiet place.

Listen without interrupting:

Try and remember that pauses are fine, you don’t need to jump in and fill a silence. Resist putting your own interpretation on what the other person is saying and repeat back what they say so it shows you’re listening.

Check in on loved ones:

Why not try adding reminders to your calendar or phone, to check in with loved ones once or twice a week. Don’t give up, sometimes it can take a few tries to get someone to open up about how they’re feeling.

Or, you can make up your own pledges. You can visit www.samaritans.org for more information or you can call 116 123 for free any time of day.