Kirkcaldy Samaritans are making a plea for new volunteers to join up in 2017, saying a lack of helpers is proving a major problem.
The charity receives a call every six seconds from someone in the UK and Eric Christie, who has been a volunteer for 14 years, is urging local people to train as helpers.
He said: “We desperately need new volunteers. It’s a problem which we’ve never been faced with before.”
Eric explained: “Two things have happened recently that have had an impact. We have installed a new computer system which equalises calls throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland so that there’s no branches sitting idle whilst others are run off their feet. So that increased calls to all branches.
“Secondly, around a year ago, we introduced our new freephone number.
“The good thing about it is that we no longer have people asking us to call them back as they are about to run out of credit.
“If they are in deep distress, the longer they talk the better. If someone calls us when they are beginning to feel a bit down then we can help them then before the problem gets a lot worse.
“Whilst that has been great, we now have the situation that while people are talking for longer, others are sometimes struggling to get through. We know this is happening.
“Added to that, emails and texts are not getting dealt with properly as we simply don’t have enough people to respond to them all within a reasonable time, or the volunteer is actually having to shut off the phone to look at them.
“An interesting thing that happens is people actually get some relief when they write out their message that they are emailing to us. But it is vital that we reply, because they are equally as important as a phone call. A lot of those emails and texts tend to come from young people.
“We have the same plethora of problems that we’ve always from people getting in touch had but we are also inheriting some new ones.
“So the only solution we see is that we need more volunteers.”
The charity will be running information events during January and training for new volunteers begins in February.
Eric, who is based at the charity’s centre in Kirkcaldy, says anyone who joins is getting a benefit for life.
“You become more tolerant, you’re more aware of people’s emotions. And you learn a lot about yourself too. You realise your own problems aren’t too bad.
“Also, the training is superb. No-one will be made to answer phone calls until they feel completely ready.”
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