The Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, Mr. Colm Brophy, T.D., today launched Samaritans Freephone helpline for the Irish diaspora in Canada and Australia.
Samaritans, in partnership with the Government of Ireland through the Emigrant Support Programme, have been working together to provide 24-hour Freephone access to the Samaritans helpline in Ireland for Irish people in a number of countries abroad. The purpose of this project is to provide access to a culturally sensitive emotional support resource for the Irish abroad who are in distress, struggling to cope and who are in need of emotional support.
Members of the diaspora are signposted to Samaritans through the relevant Irish Embassy, or Irish community organisation, in that particular country. All calls to this number are connected to a Samaritan volunteer in Ireland via a technical divert, and are free of charge to the caller.
Since 2018, the service has operated on a pilot basis initially in the United Arab Emirates, China, Hong Kong and Poland. Following this pilot, the service will now extend to Canada and Australia.
Announcing the launch of the service, the Minister said:
“I am delighted to support, and work in partnership with, Samaritans. Supporting the mental health of emigrants and Irish communities abroad has been a particular focus of the work of the Emigrant Support Programme. However, the need has become even more evident since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although language is not a barrier to services in these cases, the distance from home, and the limitations imposed by the current restrictions in place, mean that many people are feeling increased loneliness and isolation, particularly following the Christmas and New Year period.
Ireland greatly values our diaspora, whose energy, expertise and experience has done much to build Ireland’s reach and reputation in the world. In today’s world, where change and uncertainty appear to be the order of the day, our commitment to the Irish abroad remains steadfast”.
Minister Brophy went on to acknowledge the work carried out by Samaritan volunteers, saying:
“I would like to thank Samaritans for their dedication to supporting our diaspora through their important work, particularly at a time when many among our diaspora are facing emotional difficulties in a challenging and changing environment.
This Freephone service will be an invaluable resource for many of our diaspora in the New Year and beyond”.
These freephone numbers are being launched on ‘Brew Monday’, the third Monday in January normally dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, but which Samaritans turn into something positive by urging people to stay connected and share a virtual cuppa.
Niall Mulligan, Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland, said:
“Samaritans is delighted that we have been able to offer emotional support to members of the diaspora who are in distress or struggling to cope while living so far away from home.
Our partnership with the Government of Ireland, through the Emigrant Support Programme, is a vital support to those who need us, and we are excited that a pilot project launched in 2018 is now being extended to Irish people living in Canada and Australia. It is so important that people in these countries can now access the support of our volunteers with no cost.
The challenges many people face during winter have been felt even more acutely this year with the pandemic restrictions. At Samaritans, we know how powerful talking and listening can be, even if it is virtually. This Brew Monday we are asking everyone to take the time to listen and support one another. It could save a life.”