A SAMARITANS branch set up after a coroner raised concerns about high suicide rate among North Yorkshire’s farming community, is experiencing more demand than ever as it marks its Golden Anniversary.

The Northallerton and Dales Samaritans branch was founded in 1964 after a North Yorkshire coroner became concerned at the number of suicides in isolated hill-farming communities and the farming as a whole.

Its early volunteers included Thirsk vets Alf Wright and his business partner Donald Sinclair, better known as TV's James Herriot and Siegfried Farnham.

Loading article content

The group, based on Crosby Road in Northallerton, now covers approximately 1,200 square miles from the North York Moors to upper Wensleydale and Swaledale and Hambleton, Richmondshire and parts of Ryedale.

Press officer Marianne Hill said: “Over the last 50 years we have received many hundreds of thousands of telephone calls, but nowadays we also receive many emails and text messages and even some letters. Overall we had around 20,000 contacts last year.”

As well as dealing with thousands of telephone calls each year from people in distress, the group is increasingly going out into the community.

Branch director, Dr Ian Watt, said they had a number of recent out-projects to in the community. These include working in partnership with Network Rail and British Transport Police at Northallerton station to try and prevent suicides. That work includes regular patrols of the town’s station by Samaritans volunteers.

The group has also been involved in projects in Catterick Garrison, helping military families with issues such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), domestic abuse and other welfare issues.

The branch has also begun visiting schools and colleges to work with students.

Dr Watt said: “The schools, the military, the railway station - it’s all part of trying to reach out into the community where there may be people with problems.

“We do need more volunteers. The work we are doing with schools is a perfect example, we can do more schools if we have more people to send out.

“All of these things we’re doing outside the branch are in addition to the main duties in the branch. We have recently taken on some retired teachers who are helping us with the schools projects. But these are all people who are going above and beyond their call of duty.”

The Northallerton and Dales Samaritans telephone helplines are 01609 - 776161 or 0845 90 90 90 or email them at: northallertonsamaritans@talktalk.net