Samaritans Guest Blog: Sharing the Impact of Samaritans Helpline Caller Outcomes Research

Dr Stephanie Aston from Samaritans shares how a recent study completed by M·E·L Research has had an impact and has provided vital evidence to inform Samaritans’ helpline service improvements.


About Samaritans

Samaritans is a suicide prevention charity, specialising in providing emotional support through active listening for those finding it difficult to cope. Samaritans was established in 1953 and now has 201 branches across the UK and Ireland, with over 20,000 volunteers. Samaritans’ helpline is available to callers 24/7 and is completely free.

Samaritans is working to improve the collection and application of evidence to better understand the benefits of the helpline, as well as other suicide prevention work.

The caller outcomes research

In 2019, we commissioned M·E·L Research to carry out an important study to measure the impact of the Samaritans telephone helpline and find out what difference it makes to callers’ lives.

More detail about how the research was carried out, some of the key findings, plus links to the Samaritans website for more detailed findings can be found here.

How this research has had an impact and is informing what Samaritans does

This research has enabled Samaritans to evidence the impact of the telephone helpline (using an active listening approach) on callers for the first time.

The study confirms that it is possible (following an earlier Feasibility Study in 2017-18) to do this sort of research, in this type of service setting, with vulnerable callers.

Research findings will also contribute to the wider evidence base on helplines and suicide prevention.

We at Samaritans will use the research findings in five main ways:

  • Service improvement: caller feedback on what works and what can be improved will be embedded into service development and volunteer training.
  • Volunteer recruitment and motivation: evidence that the service is helping callers is motivating for existing volunteers and will encourage others to volunteer.
  • Awareness-raising campaigns: evidence that shows the service works will encourage more people to contact the helpline.
  • Fundraising: evidence that the service is making a difference can help Samaritans secure essential funds.
  • Research knowledge base: we will share learnings within the field of suicide prevention to help improve support for those who need it most.

Dr Stephanie Aston is Senior Research and Evaluation Manager at Samaritans.

Links for the full report
The full report and Samaritans’ infographics (Reference: Markham, T., Forshaw, A. and Sutcliffe, R. (2020). Samaritans Caller Outcomes Study. Birmingham: MEL Research Ltd) containing further detail about the research can be found here on Samaritans website.