Daniel Carlat, MDDr. Carlat has disclosed that he has no significant relationships with or financial interests in any commercial companies pertaining to this educational activity.
The suicide-prevention organization Samaritans was founded in 1953 in the UK by a Church of England vicar named Chad Varah. He writes, "It had been 18 years since I made my debut in the ministry by burying a 14-year old girl who'd killed herself when her periods started, thinking it was VD." When he wrote his first newspaper column, he got 235 letters from troubled readers, 14 of whom he thought were suicidal. "There ought to be an emergency number for suicidal people, I thought." When he was granted the opportunity to set up a telephone line and drop-in center, he initially did the work himself. "But then useless amateurs began offering to help. I bounced off the ones I didn't like and graciously allowed the ones I found agreeable to run errands for me and keep the clients amused while waiting to be ushered in to my presence. It soon became evident that they were doing the clients more good than I was. Everybody needed befriending (as we now call it): only a minority needed my counseling, or referral to a psychiatrist." He trained volunteer staff and in 1974 set up Befrienders International, which was the umbrella organization until 2003 for similar groups around the world, including in the U.S. The organization provides a round-the-clock phone line, as well as drop-in centers, outreach, and now email support. They emphasize non-judgmental listening, but will offer to call an ambulance if a patient is acutely suicidal, an uncommon occurrence.