Probus club learn about Samaritans

Hilary Willoughby, Wendy Cliffe, Graham Moss and Muriel Astley SUS-151108-110637001
Hilary Willoughby, Wendy Cliffe, Graham Moss and Muriel Astley SUS-151108-110637001

After the usual gossip, and a few drinks at the bar, an excellent lunch was served to the Fryern Ladies Probus CLub at The Roundabout Hotel, West Chiltington on Thursday August 6.

The speaker was indeed a gentleman of note, being the husband of one of our members, by name of Gwen, and extremely well known to the ladies of The Chanctonbury Set.

Indeed Graham Moss was heroically missing out on his own Probus lunch, as we all meet on the same day, and for this we were all extremely grateful; naturally we subsequently were more than pleased that he really enjoyed his lunch – thank you Graham.

Graham spoke about his own involvement in the Samaritans and gave us an insight into the history and the tremendous support that they give to troubled people in need.

The organisation was founded by Chad Varah, a Church of England vicar in 1935. Chad, whilst previously a curate in Lincoln, had officiated at a funeral of a 14 year old girl who had committed suicide because she had mistaken her menstruation for a dreaded, life threatening disease, and had had nobody to talk to and had been unable to seek help or advice before sadly taking her own life.

This tragic and overwhelming story encouraged Chad to place an advertisement for ‘volunteers’ to be available to listen to people at times of stress, potential suicide and worry in their lives and this was the start of the Samaritans as we know them today – giving people the service of listening and the mental space to make their own minds up. Whilst the Samaritans are named after the well - loved Bible parable the organisation has always been secular and self – financing. The principal aim is to offer support by listening and not to be judgemental or to offer any personal opinions - to just be a compassionate sounding board so that the troubled individual can come to terms with themselves in a totally confidential setting. People can find conversation difficult within a family and to have this opportunity to talk is therapeutic in itself as well as focussed

We were reminded that there are many ways to access a Samaritan and that this is a 24/7 service. The most successful way is by phone directly or e-mail, text, walk in and face to face. Samaritans offer out reach into schools, prisons, hospitals, surgeries, workplace training and various organisations such as Probus. This is to teach people to empathise and to be more understanding of their fellow human beings. There may be many reasons why people need the Samaritans eg. bereavement, job loss, life threatening illness, drugs, depression, life’s events, online bullying, relationship breakdown, life pressure and expectations, financial issues, family problems, loneliness, gender identity, poor self - worth, colour and body image, all forms of abuse, mental health, drink problems, self - harm and death wishes etc. All problems are open for anyone to talk and to be listened to without condemnation – the ‘listener role’ is the key to mental health, personal salvation and allows the user to talk about ‘stuff’ that is really difficult.

There are 201 branches of Samaritans throughout the country with a total of 21,200 trained volunteers and more are needed. There are 5 million ‘contacts’ a year which means that every six seconds somebody is asking for help. We have five local branches in West Sussex being in Worthing, Chichester, Brighton/ Hove, Guildford and Horsham/Crawley. It is interesting to note that the independent premises in Worthing, where Graham works, needs £35,000 per year to keep open. Whilst all personnel are volunteers, and the only person who gets paid is the cleaner, it is really important to fund raise to stay open. When you consider that there are around 6,000 suicides a year, which would be more without the very conscientious services offered by the Samaritans, it is a charity well worth supporting. We of the Fryern Ladies’ Probus certainly think so. Hilary Willoughby warmly thanked Graham for his illuminating talk and a collective donation was made for an excellent cause.

The next meeting will be on September 3 when Heather Hook will speak to us on an Alaskan Adventure.

Report by Russ Fry. Picture by Dita Stejskalova, General Manager at The Roundabout Hotel.