24 December 2005

Help only a text call away for young people

Irish Examiner

24 December 2005
By Jim Morahan

YOUNG people under stress are being urged to send a mobile phone text to the Samaritans.
Help is only a text call away, says the emotional support charity.

Texting the word SAM, followed by their region, to 51500 will get them a response.

Samaritan phone lines are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

A Samaritans spokeswoman, said: “Young people often feel that their worries and concerns aren’t important and don’t want to burden their friends or families if they are feeling low.”

Suicide trends over the past 10 years have shown a 36% increase in the Republic.

Ireland rugby star Brian O’Driscoll, who launched the service, said: “Exam pressures can be huge and I believe that it is very important that young people have an outlet to express their concerns. Samaritans provides a valuable confidential service and the mobile phone is a great way of reminding them that support is only a phone call away.”

Brendan Daly, Samaritans regional representative, said: “It is our aim to send SMS texts to students at various times in the year to let them know that by ringing our help line, they will be listened to in confidence, accepted without prejudice and given the opportunity to explore difficult feelings.”

He added: “With this new service we hope to see students forwarding our texts to another person who might want to know they have the option to ring or email Samaritans in confidence.”

There were many perceived barriers to asking for help, said Mr Daly.

These ranged from not knowing who to ask, to not wanting to burden or worry those close to them.

“Our research shows that simply having an awareness of our SMS and email service made young people more likely to feel that Samaritans is a good option if they want to discuss difficult issues in their life,” he said.

Research shows young people don’t perceive their problems as being serious enough to make contact with Samaritans, yet they are one of the most vulnerable groups within society in terms of emotional health.

The research also shows that once they were made aware of the existing email service young people were far more likely to get in touch to discuss issues that worried them.

It also demonstrated that they were more likely to perceive Samaritans as being relevant to their lives.

Púca chief executive Eamon Holmes said it was a very worthy cause, and the mobile phone was a logical communication channel to reach out to young people.

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