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Samaritans in safe hands

Samaritans branch chairwoman Edith Leask pictured with the two visiting inspectors Maggie Mehta and Monica Wyatt.

THE SHETLAND branch of Samaritans has been given a clean bill of health by the charity’s own internal inspectors.

Two “visitors”, as they’re known within the charity, spent part of last week in Shetland, visiting the centre in Lerwick’s Charlotte Street, meeting local volunteers and having talks with senior post holders in the branch.

Speaking after attending a special branch meeting on Saturday, Maggie Mehta and Monica Wyatt, both from the south of England, said they’d been impressed by the dedication of the local team of operational volunteers and the back-up staff who maintain the computer links, raise funds and help with things like cleaning, building maintenance and administration.

Maggie said: “I think the branch is doing an amazing job. There’s a group of very loyal volunteers, loyal to the branch but more importantly loyal to the whole concept of Samaritans, and what we’ve seen leads us to feel that Shetland Samaritans are a safe pair of hands in the community.”

Monica described the visit as a quality assurance inspection. “We visit branches to see that they are all giving a consistent service right across the whole of Samaritans, which is 200 branches,” she said.

“We’re also making sure all the branches are sharing good practice, sharing good ideas, and really just making sure the very special emotional support the Samaritans give is absolutely top notch everywhere we go.”

Samaritans of Shetland is open five nights a week to give support to people who are anxious, distressed and suicidal. Volunteers can speak face to face to locals who call in at the centre, but more often answer telephone calls and e-mails which can come from all over Britain, Ireland and beyond.

The branch has also just started to take on new responsibilities for answering text messages.

Branch chairman Edith Leask says the new service is being rolled out across the country in an effort to make it easier for the younger generation to ask for and receive help when they’re at their most vulnerable.

The main focus is on making sure anyone who needs help can reach Samaritans as quickly and easily as possible, and to that end she hopes that more volunteers can be attracted to the charity’s vital work.

“We always need more people,” Edith says. “The more volunteers we can get in our branch, trained here by our own training team, the better the service we can offer. We could actually be e-mailing and texting and answering the phone, all at the same time, in the same room if we had enough volunteers.”

Anyone interested in helping the local branch is invited to visit the charity’s website at www.samaritans.org.

If anyone needs support through a time of distress or suicidal feelings, they can email through the same web address, and phone or text for free on 116 123. Alternatively, they can call in at the branch in Charlotte Street. Its opening hours are Monday to Wednesday 7.30pm to 10.30pm, and on Thursday and Friday from 9pm to 10.30pm.