Many thousands of people call the Samaritans each day; the charity is renowned for the compassionate free support provided by its volunteers 24/7, 365 days a year.

Following changing trends in communication, the mental health charity is piloting a first of its kind initiative that will see fully trained students and staff deliver online chat support to whoever needs it, wherever they are in the UK.

Samaritans university hub aims to ‘normalise conversations around mental health’

The collaboration will also involve student placements with the Samaritans for those in relevant courses. These two-week placements will enable students to gain knowledge of suicide prevention and enhance their skills in being a supportive and active listener.

Colin Hill, Anglia Ruskin Samaritans Hub Service Director, commented: “I started volunteering with Samaritans when I was in my mid-20s, and now, as a senior Samaritans volunteer for the past five years, it's an honour to lead our very first university hub. After training the students and faculty members to be Samaritans volunteers, we're excited to launch and begin to offer support to anyone who might be finding things difficult."

“There is a growing need for people to have a variety of options if they are struggling and need to reach out, and the pandemic has only made this need more urgent. That's why it's vital we test and develop our online chat pilot through initiatives such as this Anglia Ruskin University partnership, so eventually, Samaritans can offer more digital, written-word choices for those who prefer communicating in that way.”

The Samaritans further hope to roll out similar partnerships elsewhere if the written virtual chat pilot at Anglia Ruskin University is deemed to be successful.

Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can email and visit the Samaritans website.