Samaritans Helpline Caller Outcomes Research

In 2019 we were commissioned by Samaritans to undertake research to measure primary outcomes for callers who use the Samaritans Helpline, explore callers’ experience of the Helpline, and identify the difference the Helpline makes to them.


The research builds on a previous Feasibility Study carried out by Samaritans in 2017-18  to test the appropriateness and validity of the research, with this project applying the learning to a larger scale study.

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

Improving the collection and application of evidence so that the organisation is better able to demonstrate the benefits of the service is a key priority set within the Samaritans Strategy up to 2021. The study will provide an independent evidence base to inform future Helpline service improvements, and will provide evidence of the impact of the Helpline to contribute towards the future sustainability of the service.

The research approach and materials have been approved by Samaritans Research Ethics Board, and an Advisory Group comprising academics and experts with a range of related specialisms provides advice to Samaritans and MEL Research.

Two key outcomes for callers are the focus for this study; distress and  suicidality. Research will take place over three phases. Phase 1 will be administered by Samaritans volunteers on the call. Volunteers will gather informed consent and recruit callers to the study, and ask two baseline questions. Training is being provided to volunteers from at least 20 Samaritans branches by MEL Research.

Callers who are happy to take part and provide informed consent will receive a quantitative online survey from MEL Research, one week after the initial call (phase 2). Amongst other topics, this will include a repeat of the two questions asked at the baseline on the initial call so we can measure short-term outcomes.

A sub-sample of those who respond to the online survey will be recruited to take part in phase 3, an in-depth qualitative interview with MEL Research, to explore their experiences and the impact of the Helpline in more detail. 

Towards the end of the project, feedback will also be gathered from the volunteers who took part in the project, to better understand their experiences of recruiting callers and gathering baseline data.

The research is currently underway and will be complete by mid-2020. Our report will provide evidence of caller outcomes specific to distress and suicidality, and actionable insights which will help inform the future development of Samaritans Helpline. The research will contribute to wider learning around caller outcomes and suicide prevention.

If you have a similar project that you wish to discuss with us, please contact a member of our team today on 0121 604 4664 or

MRS Evidence Matters