What service do you offer?
The Samaritans’ aim is to provide emotional support to anyone feeling despairing or suicidal. We believe that everyone has the right to control his or her own destiny – including the right to end his or her life. We won’t tell you what to do and we don’t judge – we are here to offer unconditional emotional support. We are open for telephone calls 24 hours every day of the year. We also try our best to respond to email every day.
Are you a religious group?
No. Our name is a historical accident although the Biblical Samaritan is a role model we follow in that we will help anyone of any race, colour or creed.
How did you start?
The first branch of The Samaritans was set up in 1953, in London. There are now hundreds of Samaritan branches worldwide. Samaritan Befrienders was the first branch outside the United Kingdom in 1960.
Our branch, started in 1973, was the first English-speaking branch in Hong Kong. In 1980, our name was changed to Multi-Lingual Branch to reflect the need to provide a suicide prevention service to the whole community of Hong Kong.
A Samaritan email service was started in 1994 in Cheltenham, UK, where the idea originated. Our branch joined this international email service in 1995 and now operates an email service locally.
Are you confidential?
The Samaritans offer absolute confidentiality. There are no exceptions to this rule. Nothing our callers say or write to us ever goes beyond the Samaritans – whatever the circumstances, age of the caller or state of mind.
We do not have caller ID on our telephones. Emailers may use a pseudonym or pen name to protect their identity. Email messages are retained for a time to preserve continuity. They are normally deleted after around a month. If you ask us to, we will delete them earlier.
Our policy of absolute confidentiality also means that if asked, we will neither confirm nor deny whether someone is in contact with us. This confidentiality lasts forever, even after death.
While we guarantee our confidentiality, we cannot be responsible for the medium you use to reach us. Phones can be bugged and email can be intercepted. We will do everything possible to protect your privacy and will notify you at once if confidentiality is breached.
What can I do if I know someone who may be suicidal?
Please make contact! We are able to offer our support to potentially suicidal people referred to us by others. However, we can only approach someone if you are prepared to give us your name and relationship to the person you are worried about. If we do make contact, our confidentiality rule will mean that we cannot tell you what is said, or even whether the contact was made.
Being close to someone who is in distress can be a very difficult experience. We are also here to support you and listen to your concerns and fears.
How are you funded?
The Samaritans is a recipient of funds from the Community Chest, which helps support part of our running costs. To operate our 24/7 hotline service, recruit and train volunteers, and run education and public awarness programmes that benefit members of the community, The Samaritans rely on the generosity of the public, charitable trusts, and companies.
Can I help?
If you speak English and are interested in becoming a Samaritan volunteer, find out how you can apply to join us. Seventy per cent of our volunteers are bilingual in English and Cantonese.
Do you keep records?
We keep email messages for around a month to preserve continuity. We will honour requests to delete any of your messages that remain on our computer.
We also keep arrival statistical information (which does not allow individuals to be identified) to enable us to monitor our service.
Will my email messages always be answered by the same person?
No. We reply to email daily but each individual volunteer typically replies to mail only once or twice a week. This is why we keep email messages for a short time.
What email address should I use for non-urgent items?
What sort of people are Samaritans?
Samaritans are unpaid volunteers who have been carefully selected and trained to offer emotional support in a crisis. There is a wide variation in age, occupation, race and background.