Northern Ireland

Event marks Samaritans' 50 years in Northern Ireland

Samaritans volunteer
Image caption The Samaritans set up its first centre in Ireland in Belfast in 1961

An event at Stormont on Tuesday will mark 50 years of the founding of the Samaritans in Northern Ireland.

The first ever Samaritans branch in Ireland opened in Belfast on 1 November 1961. It has been opened for business ever since, aside from a few hours when it was damaged by a bomb.

There are now eight branches across Northern Ireland, which in 2010, dealt with an average of 187 calls a day.

Some branches now also offer help via text messages.

Suzanne Costello, director for Samaritans Ireland, said its services were needed more than ever.

"Modern life and a rapidly changing world have not eclipsed the human need we all have to be listened to, supported and helped through difficult times," she said.

"In this climate there can be no complacency on the part of any agency involved in suicide prevention."

Health Minister Edwin Poots said Samaritans had "blazed a trail" in the use of telephone helplines and was continuing to innovate in the services it provides.

He added that he "greatly valued" its contribution to his department's anti-suicide strategies.

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