Samaritans: Record numbers contacted charity last year
A record number of people contacted the Samaritans seeking help last year, the charity has revealed.
The organisation said it handled more than 5.7 million cases in 2016, which was an increase of nearly 300,000 over the previous year.
Samaritans credited the launch of a free confidential helpline in autumn 2015 for the rise - previously there was a two pence-a-minute charge.
The figures were released to coincide with the start of Volunteers' Week.
There were 5,703,830 contacts in 2016, including helpline calls, emails, texts and face-to-face support, compared with 5,404,331 in 2015.
Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said: "Suicide is complex but it's also an inequality issue and a number of factors, including deprivation, can put you at increased risk.
"Even two pence a minute was enough to deter some callers, which is why we were determined to make all calls to Samaritans free.
"These figures show our volunteers are making the difference by being there for increasing numbers of people, but we're just one part of the equation."
She added: "Suicide is not inevitable, it's preventable and everyone has a role to play, from politicians, parents and health workers to employers, businesses and the media."
Volunteers' Week, organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, runs from 1-7 June.